Sunday, February 18, 2007

And where is the money going again??

Hi folks,

Real life, the beginning of the semester, and that cold snap, all caught me up during January and February... so that's where I've been.

I stumbled on some interesting stuff about Wisconsin taxation that I thought needed wider distribution.... it's applicable to the legislative knee jerk penchant to blame the UW System for every tax problem in the state (a favourite red meat target for Mullahs Belling and Syckes).

You may know that a perponderance of your property taxes do not go to the UW System but to the state's technical colleges.

Well, right now that's a problem if you're a technical college. The manufacturing jobs for which the tech schools were designed to supply skilled workers are moving the China. In the next 10 years we are scheduled to lose at least another 50% of ALL manufacturing jobs in the state. If that's the case, why do we need to spend all of this tax money on tech schools? Shouldn't we be cutting their budgets? Or, at least, start imposing legislative oversight on how our tax dollars are being spent? (The legislature micromanages the UW System in ways that'd make most businesses shake in their boots.)

It turns out we spend A LOT more of our tax dollars per student in the tech schools than they do at the university. How does that make any sense economically? Maybe you can figure it out.

The CRG Network (Citizens for Responsible Government) put out an audit of MATC. Here are the links:

If you can explain the disparity in how our taxdollars are being spent, spending more on training for industries of the past vs. the future -- shoot -- post it up here!

I've asked Glenn Grothman and Pat Strachota (my reps) to respond to this, but I haven't heard anything from them. :^)

How about you?



Seth Zlotocha said...

Anything from CRG should be taken with a big grain of salt.

If you want to learn about the fiscal sides of the UW System and the state technical college system, read the audits by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The UW report is here, and the tech college report is here.

Mpeterson said...

Thanks Seth for your reply,

You're quite right about approaching CRG data carefully. Accurate or not, they provide some of the few numbers for comparison I've seen.

The numbers I've been hunting for are in the UW System report you cited -- specifically in the ratio of GRE to FTE which gives the average cost per full time student across UW System as $7665 each. This would probably be lower once you factor in the funding structures for running the UW Colleges which do not depend on System for facilities and those campuses that do not have graduate programs.

I was unable to find numbers in the tech school report that would let us compare the two systems. On the other hand, I do have materials from the Chippewa Valley Tech Schools that cite a Joint Legislative Audit Committee report from 2002. They claim that they (CVTS) spend about $10,000 per student, while the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) spends $15,350 per student. UW System lists the 2002 per stduent cost at $8111 -- a higher than average year.

So, on that basis it looks like the UW spends $2k less per year per student than CVTS and nearly half the amount the Wisconsin technical college system spends per student.

That seems like a lot to me...

-again, *if* these numbers are in the ballpark.

If we can find a clear comparison that would let us work out which institution is giving the taxpayer a better deal, that'd make me happy.

I don't care how it comes out. I just want to know what the answer is.

I'm talking about this here because my legislators (Glenn Grothman and Pat Strachota) have been unable or unwilling or too busy to answer the question for me.

The UW Colleges (where I work) are at the bottom of the UW System food chain, so every time Glenn Grothman sneezes about the evils of the University, we catch the cold. We had our benefits slashed at last year (my insurance went up $1500) and this year's catch-up raise might offset some of that but still leave us behind the rate of inflation.

Moreover, the tech colleges manage to pay their instructors more. For instance, there are instructors at MATC who make $30,000-$40,000 a year *more* than I do, and with the same number of years of service but with MA's. I somehow managed to get a PhD.

So I started asking where the money was going. It's not coming here.

Anyway, jump in and thanks.


Seth Zlotocha said...

That $8111 figure for the UW in 2002 is GPR spending only. I'm not aware of the Legislative Audit Committee study you mention, but I'm sure the figure it cites for CVTS and WTCS student cost is more than just GPR spending.

Just counting GPR money and tuition, the UW budget in 06-07 was $1.95 billion, according to the LFB report cited above. That figure divided by the total number of FTE students in the UW system that year gives you $14,305 per student.

Just counting state aide, property taxes, and tuition, the WTCS budget in 05-06 was $928.3 million, according to the LFB report cited above. That figure divided by the total number of FTE students in the WTCS that year gives you $13,598 per student.

So the WTCS appears to be a bit cheaper, but looking at the figures in that way doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. One glaring difference is that grad students -- who have higher tuition rates -- are included in the UW figures, while it's only postsecondary and continuing ed students for WTCS. I'm sure there are other differences between the two that could be found by parsing the numbers out even more.

Mpeterson said...

I looked at the report for UW and, with enough time, we could pick out the graduate students... but I don't have the time. :^)

It'd also be useful to find out how the percentage of total cost the tax payers contribute to each student and the percentage the student makes up in tuition.

It might also be worth asking whether the best comparison would be between the costs of UW students in their first two years, since that is all the tech schools provide. It would be interesting to weigh them against the UW Colleges, say.