JANESVILLE, Wis. - UW Rock County is quiet in the days between commencement and summer classes, but Joel Frat still keeps an eye on campus.
"Being that it's our full-time job, we're here every day, you could said it's a home away from home, and we take pride in that," Frat said.
But for a custodian who goes beyond his job description and looks to protect students, he's not feeling good about his job security.
"There are definitely going to be some cuts, some deep cuts. And how deep? We just don't know," Frat said. "And that's the thing that bothers me the most and I'm sure a lot of people who are employed for the UW campuses."
UW Rock County Dean Carmen Wilson said in her 20 years with the UW Colleges system, this cut is the most challenging yet. According to Wilson, the entire system of 13 campuses and an online program faces a $6.5 million cut. The Rock County campus's budget alone: $6.5 million.
"This cut takes us back to funding levels that we got in 1998, so we are running a 21st-century institution on a 20th-century budget," Wilson said.
The two-year institutions that make up the UW Colleges system are under the same guidance for how to deal with the budget cuts.
"This cut is so large and it comes on the heels of other cuts, we have no other option but to take an institutionalized approach," Wilson said.
Wilson said 92 percent of UW Rock County's budget is for personnel, so there is nowhere else to cut back on expenses. She's bracing for a 10-percent cut to her workforce, with up to 10 positions on the chopping block.
In addition, the campus cannot take more students to increase revenue since admissions already accepts whoever wants to come.
Wilson said the colleges in the UW System have also endured eight years of tuition freezes over the last decade, making it more difficult to boost revenue.
"I feel sad for the students and our ability to give them what they need to be successful, and I worry about those students who need the most support," Wilson said.
One of the options put before the system is regionalizing administration. In other words, the 13 campuses would be divided into regions, each with its own dean and leadership team. That would take the place of individual deans at each campus.
"I think it's just challenging to lead institutions that are in such different locations," Wilson said.
More than anything, Wilson said she's concerned about the 1,100 or so students who attend UW Rock County. She said the majority of them are the first in their families to attend college, and a number of them need help accessing aid so they can finish their degrees. Without staffing, and advisers, Wilson fears there will be fewer graduates.
"If there's one student who drops out of college because the adviser that they had isn't here to help them, that's one student too many," Wilson said.
The biennial budget, which dictates the UW System funding, is scheduled to be finalized in June.
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