The University of Wisconsin System could soon see an additional $150 million if a proposal from Gov. Tony Evers is approved by state lawmakers. The money is expected to be one of the topics discussed Wednesday in Oak Creek, where the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is holding an all-day hearing on the proposed state budget.
UW officials say the increase could indirectly help with a key university mission: research.
The budget discussion comes as UW-Milwaukee celebrates retaining its ranking as a so-called "R1" research university. R1 means UWM is in the "highest research activity" category, according to a national framework developed almost 50 years ago by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.
At an event on April 5, UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said during the roughly last five decades, things have changed at the campus.
"In 1965, we had one doctoral program. It was math by the way. And we had not yet granted our first Ph.D. By 2018, UWM had 36 doctoral programs and granted nearly 250 doctoral degrees each year," Mone explains.
Mone says UWM now attracts about $35 million a year in research dollars, from "external sources" — mainly the federal government. UW-Madison brings in about $570 million in federal research money, and is also classified as R1.
UW System President Ray Cross says the $150 million proposed in additional state funds for the system would indirectly help projects.
"Very little money in the state budget goes for research. What it does though, is it facilitates the foundation for hiring faculty and other things that ultimately support the research money that comes in from the federal government or from private sources or other sources," Cross says.
There have been occasional efforts at the federal level to cut spending, including for some types of research. But Cross says he's optimistic — for now.
"I just came back from Washington D.C., and most legislators are speaking positively about increasing monies in the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health. There seems to be a real warmth, if I can use that in the right way, toward increased research funding. But that could change at any time,” Cross warns.
Wisconsin Republicans have been cool to most of Evers' state budget proposal. So, the chance that the UW System will get the additional money, and use some of it to hire more researchers, is something that won't be clear for a while.
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