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UW–Madison Day in Wisconsin Goes Virtual

Alumni and friends of the university learn about the needs and speak with state lawmakers as budget debate begins.

MADISON, WI (April 15, 2021) — Chancellor Rebecca Blank says the economic impact of UW–Madison on the state of Wisconsin is clear. “Thirty billion dollars a year. That is almost 10 percent of the state’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Imagine where the state would be without UW–Madison,” said Blank, speaking to more than 150 alumni and friends of UW–Madison who gathered virtually for UW-Madison Day in Wisconsin.

The event, organized by the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA), gave participants a chance to hear directly from the chancellor and a panel of legislators. After those presentations, participants broke into small groups and met virtually with their state legislators.

Blank urged everyone to deliver three key messages to their lawmakers as committee hearings on the state’s biennial budget begin.

First, an investment in UW–Madison is an investment in the entire state. UW–Madison is seeking a 3.5 percent operating budget increase to help meet future needs and continue the university’s status as a world-class institution.

Second, approval for no-cost rule changes will help the university manage its finances. UW–Madison is still predicting a $320 million loss through the end of this fiscal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are seeking the flexibility to borrow funds for this and future short-term financial needs.

Finally, approval of two building projects will “replace seriously deteriorating campus buildings and help us expand the state’s talent pool and deepen our work with Wisconsin industry,” said Blank. The university is focused on two key capital projects: a new College of Engineering building, which will allow the university to expand the number of engineering students and include more modern labs. The other is for a new College of Letters & Science academic building.Water runs down the walls of the current building. Classrooms also have minimal audio/visual support and limited options for active learning.

State Representatives Tip McGuire (D-Somers) and Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) then joined Michael Fahey, WAA’s managing director of state and university relations, for a discussion on the future of UW–Madison.

“For every one dollar that we invest in the UW, we get a $26 return to our economy,” said McGuire. “It really highlights that making investments in the UW System is critical,” McGuire said he supports Governor Evers’s proposal to add $190 million to the UW System, including $50 million to fund the continuing tuition freeze.

“Economic impact of the UW System is huge,” said Novak. “I think it’s important that legislators understand how hard you guys have been hit.” Novak added that he will wait and see how the proposed UW budget comes out of upcoming committee hearings before he commits his support.

As for the building projects, Novak and McGuire emphasized the importance of advocating for infrastructure improvements. “You really need to sell these buildings,” said Novak. “I do agree with Representative Novak that we’re going to make sure other legislators get the opportunity to see why this is critical,” said McGuire.

The representatives also agree that the tuition freeze needs to be reexamined and removed sometime in the future.

Media Information

Contact: Tod Pritchard,, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni

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