Monday, July 30, 2007

Assembly Budget cuts college for 200-280 people in Washington County.

Hi folks,

The Assembly is currently posturing on the budget. Sometimes they forget about the consequences for real people outside of Madison.

Beating up on the University of Wisconsin is a favorite pastime for the gangbangers in the Assembly and Senate, even though none of them can explain why they cut. Just like gangbangers, they don't care about why -- but their actions have consequences.

The UW remains about the best bargain in education in the Midwest and the UW Colleges, the "Little-University-on-the-Prairie-Division," is still the best deal in the UW System. Ask anyone who's been there.

The current Assembly budget slashes 30 positions in the University of Wisconsin Colleges, which includes the campus here in Washington County. Our local share would probably be 2 of those positions. Instructors teach about 4 courses a semester and there are 2 semesters a year.

Here's the math: 2 instructors @ 4 courses each = 8 courses per semester and 16 courses a year. That's 8 to 16 courses each year taken away from people in Washington County.

How many Washington County taxpayers are affected?

At 25-35 students per course, the Assembly budget would cut off access to 200-280 students each semester, or 400-560 students a year.

That's just here in Washington County.

With the ongoing squeeze of globalization on our traditional labor force, people are going to need college degrees in engineering, math, and that hard sciences, to stay ahead of our trading partners in China and India.

Just like the interstate highways or the Web, education is an investment in our economic infrastructure. Cutting off investment in our kids' education is really just sticking it to ourselves -- although, not directly. Technically, the Assembly is sticking it to us -- and, ironically, to their own children.

We'll see whether Rep. Strachota is interested in our economic future or in locking the door of opportunity to the people of Washington County.

I hope she's more interested in the future.



Anonymous said...

Do you mean to say that ALL classes offered in any semester are FULL? I haven't seen any reports that would indicate that would indicate UW-Washington County was bursting at the seams.


Mpeterson said...

There are always a few courses that have low enrollments -- Calculus III or advanced Physics classes are sociology, psych, philosophy, math pick one... those are typically full.

In the last couple of years we are finally a little bit ahead. For years we overfilled courses to accommodate student demand. Truth is we could probably fill a few more sections of 100 level courses every semester if we could get the funding for the instructors. But, as you've heard, the Assembly -- and others -- believe we're still too fat. :^)

This is why I always laugh about the alleged fat in the system. Here at Washington County they've been whittling on bone since I arrived in 1989.

I suppose we could move to Madison style production techniques, and have class sizes of 300... but that would violate our legislated mission (smaller classes and individual instruction)and degrade the demonstrated quality of the students who pass through our division of System.

I don't know where you'd even see "reports" about our enrollments. The local media tend not to cover those things. I can tell you that for many years we were enrolling at over 100% of the previous year without getting enough extra help. The city and county continue to fund new construction for us -- and they do that because whenever we get bigger, we keep filling the seats.

The demographics suggest that our traditional population is leveling off, so demand might ease, but we're also involved in an outreach to adult students who need to upgrade their educational background to survive changes in the job market that resulted from globalization. We'll see what happens.


Anonymous said...

"With the ongoing squeeze of globalization, .........., to stay ahead of our trading partners in China and India."

You need to organize a summit on this - organize some people who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge on these issues, not just someone who can pick topics from headlines. You don't know how old I am (let's just say probably a little older than you), but this China dynamic scares me big time. I have no issue with the global economy, and I'm not talking jobs being outsourced or trade deficits. What scares me is what other countries are doing for their collective futures. What is the U.S. doing? Let's see - we can build a bigger hamburger, our kids are whizzes at video games (so are kids in other countries, especially Japan, so we have lost our competetive edge there too), and we can blog like there's no tomorrow. Oh yeah, one more thing, we can download tunes too.

When I grew up, we used to laugh at how advanced we were in comparison to other countries, especially 3rd world countries. Who's going to be laughing in the future? Who's going to be the 3rd world country in that future? Where is the "low-cost/no-benefit" labor going to be?

All this conservative, haughty, self-righteous "I did it my way with no help, everyone else has to too" is ancient history (as if it really went down that way). Some ad on TV said something like "there has been a paradigm shift"

Like Forrest Gump said, "It happens"

Mpeterson said...

Thanks so much for this observation. I've spent some time in Shanghai over the last few years and I'm worried for exactly the same reasons you are. Older or not. :^)

If we don't start talking about it publicly, "It" surely will happen. It's happening now.

Anonymous said...

So what do you think of some kind of public forum/lecture ? - get the likes of Dean Nixon, John Torinus, Charlie Hillman, any one else to discuss what we are doing in America versus other countries, and how we are trending. Especially with education.

I recently saw a fascinating series on PBS about challenging construction projects that have been done in Asia. Don't recall locations, but there was a tunnel through an unstable mountain, a skyscraper in an earthquake zone, a railroad on frozen tundra, and a few other projects of that magnitude. Obviously they have lots of $$$ for infrastructure.

Mpeterson said...

Yep, something exactly like that.

Anonymous said...

Hate to come into this so late, how about reviving this topic? It really needs to become "top of mind".

Just finished "Innovation Nation" by John Kao (don't want to tell anyone what to read, but I would say this is a "must read"). Currently reading "The Elephant and the Dragon" by Robyn Meredith. I am doing it for self-preservation - trying to learn more about the global economy to modify my investing style.

Here are a few things from "Innovation Nation": China's investment in education of it's population is projected to result in China have more English speakers by 2025 than the rest of the world combined. If current trends continue, by 2010 90% of all scientists & engineers in the world could be living in Asia. China & Indian turn out 6.5 million college graduates a year, five times as many as the US. Nearly 1 million are engineers, versus 70,000 US engineering graduates each year. Ever hear of the "Biopolis" initiative in Singapore? - they actually select doctoral candidates (about 500 are in the program) and pay for their graduate education, as well as a tax-free five-year living allowance worth $750,000 in U.S. dollars.

There is a certain momentum effect going on too - remember how social/political changes took off in the late 60's/early 70's? Well, globally we are going to see big changes real fast, and by the time the US catches on to that, it will be too late.

Sorry to go on so long - again, when you have time, I hope you can give this topic some serious discussion.

Mpeterson said...

The language I've heard from people who've studied this is that the US is, in terms of education, exactly where it was in about 1982 in terms of manufacturing.

If you don't mind, I'll move your message up to its own thread header.