There’s no cause for worry about UWGB’s future, chancellor says | Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY — Despite a third-party financial consultant advising University of Wisconsin-Green Bay leaders to act with urgency, there is absolutely no cause for worry about the school’s future, according to Chancellor Michael Alexander.

“But I think this is really important: We darn well better act with urgency,” he said.

The University of Wisconsin System hired consultant Deloitte to review the finances of the system’s campuses, including UWGB. The school’s report, along with those of seven other campuses, was released April 11. Reports on the remaining universities — UW-Milwaukee, UW-La Crosse, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout — will be released later this year. UW-Madison was not part of the review. The April 11 report showed that, if nothing changes, UWGB will deplete its tuition fund balance by 2027.

“That would literally just be as if we froze in time and everything stayed exactly the same,” Alexander said.

In fiscal year 2023, UWGB spent $7.2 million of its fund balance, draining it by almost 50%, according to the report. The university intentionally spent down the balance, but it ended up spending more than planned, according to Alexander.

The churn that the community has felt over the last year, with cuts of over $3 million in one-time spending and layoffs, was to offset that deficit, he said.

“Once we realized that we had planned to spend down by about $4 to $5 million, and it went down by about $7 million, that raised that immediate red flag to us,” Alexander said. “And we said, ‘OK, that means that there is some part of this that is structural.’”

The university ended up spending more of its fund balance than anticipated in fiscal year 2023 because full-time student enrollment was flat instead of growing as it had in previous years. Plus, the university had spent its federal pandemic relief funding, which had been bolstering the school’s budget.

In fiscal year 2025, UWGB is cutting $2 million of recurring spending from its budget to address that structural deficit.

“It shows, as an institution, that we are not going to wait on hope that those things change,” Alexander said. “In the current environment, I feel very strongly that we have to invest money that we get into our growth, and we also have to be as quick to take off money when we realize it might hurt our overall position.”

UWGB is working on creative solutions to ensure growth, financial stability

Though a few years out, Alexander thinks the Phoenix Innovation Park, a collaborative research hub with the goal of doubling UWGB’s enrollment, is the key to future-proofing the school. Alexander’s hope is that the park will also bring in more amenities for students and connect the campus directly to the bay.

UWGB is also trying to differentiate itself with the types of students it serves, not focusing solely on the traditional 18-year-old college student. The university has grown its high school dual enrollment student population by over 200% since 2018 along with a 24% increase in graduate students, according to the financial report.

“I do worry, for sure, about making sure that we can invest quick enough in the growth that we’ve made,” Alexander said.

The financial report showed that UWGB has some curricular areas that have seen large growth while others are decreasing in student credit hours. For example, engineering credit hours have increased by 213% since 2019, but democracy and justice credits have dropped by 58%.

The school is also looking at its program array. Through its new partnership with St. Norbert College, UWGB students can take courses that are not offered at the university. As early as next fall, students at UWGB can take classes at St. Norbert in French, economics and the college’s new engineering physics major.

With inflation, reduced state funding and increased competition over students, there are many headwinds facing higher education. But Alexander is excited about what’s in store for the university.

“I think that’s the opportunity that we have to see in front of us is that we positioned ourselves well for this moment. Now we have to grab the moment,” he said.

Source: There’s no cause for worry about UWGB’s future, chancellor says.

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