As the University of Wisconsin System faces declining enrollment, the commitment to data and accountability is more important now than ever, Board of Regents President Regina Millner said.

During the Thursday Board of Regents meeting at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, regents discussed some of their main goals being set with 2020FWD, a plan which promotes investment and collaboration between UW institutions and Wisconsin businesses. 

Some of the main focuses of the project include enrollment, recruitment, retention and graduation rates at UW System institutions, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Jim Henderson said.

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Total fall enrollment in the UW System decreased slightly in the last few years.

Fewer than one out of three Wisconsin high school graduates join the UW System, Henderson said. He added he is surprised at the low number of high school graduates going into the UW System.

Getting students to view higher education as part of their life plans from a young age and targeting non-traditional students would be a priority in recruiting efforts. Henderson also advocated for focusing on advising at key points in students’ academic careers.

Regarding recruitment for individual schools, Henderson said it is important to be flexible and creative in developing unique programs to attract students.

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Enrollment has been a particularly relevant issue after years of state budget cuts to the UW System, Henderson said.

“Our campuses more than ever are relying on tuition,” Henderson said.

Henderson said institutions are becoming more efficient in how they’re spending students’ tuition money, with graduates now leaving school with few superfluous credits.

The UW System is also looking into students’ post-graduate lives, Henderson said. The average student still owes approximately $30,000 in loans, and the problem of retaining UW graduates in the state persists.

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The board plans to develop a 2020FWD Report Card to determine trends like these and set goals based on them.

UW System President Ray Cross said in terms of the UW System and individual campuses, they plan to set goals based on metrics for affordability and success. 

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said she agreed on keeping a focus on improving graduation rates. While the results may not be immediate, she said it is necessary to have the money to begin with to make investments.

But the investment is worthwhile to better the graduation rate, Blank said.

The board will reconvene Friday to discuss other issues, such as the Amazon pickup point location.

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