Chancellor Biddy Martin recently released the details of a plan to enhance the quality of the undergraduate educational experience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while preserving affordability for families with demonstrated financial need. The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates will be funded through an increase in tuition, a premium that will be offset with private grants for those who can least afford to pay the increase. The stakes have never been higher for our great university, and I wanted to share my thoughts on this initiative with current students who may feel confused or burdened by this.
As a taxpayer, involved alumnus, donor and former president of the Board of Regents, I believe I have a unique perspective on this initiative. UW-Madison has been one of the premier public universities throughout its history. Its excellence is embodied in the quality of people and ideas that it has produced. Our graduates have experienced considerable success in their endeavors. These achievements are extraordinary and stretch far beyond the average person or even the average college graduate. UW-Madison is a big reason why I am where I am today and why I have felt it my duty to step up and support the university for the next generations.
But don’t just take my word for it. UW-Madison alumni from around the world have delivered significant support to the university in recent years through efforts like the recently concluded “Create the Future Campaign” led by the UW Foundation, which raised more than $1.5 billion.
Despite this momentum, our work continues. There is still no guarantee the achievements of the university or its future graduates will match those of the past. As people have come to appreciate the value of an outstanding university education, competition has risen among states and nations to attract the best faculty and deliver the best programs. As others seek to capture the benefits we have long enjoyed at UW-Madison, we have seen increased departures of talented faculty and the cost to maintain a world-class university has increased while our share of state taxpayer dollars has decreased. This cost pressure inevitably shows up in all areas of our programs as more resources are required to attract and retain faculty. Chancellor Martin has taken a bold step by asking you to take more responsibility for the long-term quality of the university. This, I’m sure, was an extremely difficult decision for our new leader to arrive at considering the current budget tightening. You may have wondered, “Why me? Why now? How will I benefit?”
As you mull this over, I would urge you reflect on the high-quality education you have already received as a UW-Madison student and the importance of preserving this standard for the future generations. These are indeed tough times, but by taking important steps together, we all go further. This is an important moment in the future of the university, and I encourage you to join with alumni and others and make this investment today.
Sheldon B. Lubar