UW System leader calls for academic cuts, layoffs, online advances to survive in post-pandemic world

Devi Shastri:

The leader of the University of Wisconsin System will unveil Thursday a three-part plan that radically re-imagines the network of schools that has been in place for a half-century.

President Ray Cross, declaring that immediate action is crucial to the survival of the System, will call for consolidating academic programs, streamlining business operations and scaling up online degree programs across the state.

The proposal requires all campuses except for UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, to complete a review of academic offerings by the end of 2020, opening the way for program cuts, staff reductions and new investment to “provide greater institutional distinctiveness and identity.”

It also requires campuses to more rapidly centralize administrative functions — like IT and human resources — and calls for the creation of a uniform online learning model that can serve working adults and traditional undergraduates.

The proposal will be presented to the Board of Regents on Thursday afternoon.

In an interview with reporters prior to making the plan public, Cross said there was no “magic number” he was hoping to reach in terms of cuts or cost savings.

The plan is essentially a statewide version of a 2018 attempt by UW-Stevens Point to cut several majors and refine its focus.