The editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, correctly, that, basketball tournament appearance or not, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee cannot raise its research profile, enroll more Wisconsin residents than Madison does, and serve as port of entry to the middle class for first-generation and nontraditional students on the cheap.
[Geographer Mark] Schwartz and [former Milwaukee chancellor, now Marquette president Michael] Lovell point to an outdated funding formula at the UW System level that doesn't recognize UWM's expanded mission. They contend that UWM is structurally underfunded — with revenue more appropriate for a school of 16,000 students instead of the 28,000 now crammed onto the school's campuses. A committee of the UW chancellors and university officials is reviewing the formula and is expected to report back this spring.

Any talk of the funding formula inevitably scares up concerns around the UW System that whatever additional money UWM receives would have to come from the budgets of other UW institutions.

But is this necessarily the case? Couldn't out-of-state enrollment be boosted? What about increasing the amount charged to out-of-state students?
It has been the Cold Spring Shops position that budgetary stringencies are the perfect cover for limiting enrollments and raising admission standards.  That's one way to raise an institution's selectivity rankings in U.S. News and the like, and greater selectivity might bring in out-of-state students.  Madison, however, has already been going after the out-of-state, full-fare students, and it has more of the social scene and the big time sports to attract applicants more interested in the signal than in the human capital development.

Should the legislature attempt to raise Milwaukee's profile in a revenue-neutral way, that's going to involve greater stringencies at other campuses.  The Illinois proposal to create a second Big Ten-caliber public university in Illinois would bite in the same way.  The point of the legislative initiative is, not surprisingly, to keep more Illinoisans south of the Cheddar Curtain, as well as to go after more out-of-state, full-fare students.

The small solace I can draw is that, as my academic career winds down, university administrators and legislators are seriously considering spending money to compete for students.  Sometimes one has to make investments to generate traffic.

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