UW President Tommy Thompson to state government: Stop over-bossing us

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(The Center Square) – The president of the University of Wisconsin System said his plan to borrow up to $1 billion as a pathway to rely less on taxpayers across the state.

The more money the university can raise on it’s own, the less it needs from the state, UW President Tommy Thompson said in an interview with WisEye on Tuesday.

“Give us our independence,” Thompson said. “Don’t over-boss us. Don’t over regulate us. Don’t over-criticize us. Give us our opportunity.”

The UW System’s budget is about $6 billion a year. Thompson says only 17 cents on the dollar comes from state taxpayers. The rest comes from the university.

“That’s why we need bonding, Thompson said. “We want to be independent. We can do the job. We want to do the job better, if you get off our backs.”

Thompson said almost every other Big Ten university has the ability to borrow money. He simply wants the same privilege.

But Thompson doesn’t have any answers for how the UW System would repay the $1 billion in borrowing.

The university is under a tuition freeze that has been in place since 2013. Tuition is one of the UW System’s main streams of income.

Two semesters during the coronavirus outbreak are stretching the university’s finances. The school lost $100 million last spring when it sent students home and moved classes online. Students are back on campus, mostly, this fall but coronavirus lockdowns have some dorms emptier than in years past. The coronavirus also clipped the University of Wisconsin’s fall sports. There was an expectation that the UW System would lose another $100 million without Badger football this fall. Football is returning, but UW Athletics said there will still be a loss.

There are also pending budget cuts. Gov. Tony Evers’ earlier this week ordered the UW System to find $45 million in cuts by December 15.

Thompson said those harsh fiscal realities are driving the need for the university to be able to borrow on its own.

“I’m done apologizing for the university, Thompson said. “We’re going out and telling the people of this state how great this institution is, and why it is so important that the state supports us.”

By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission

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