Madison’s Capital Times newspaper reported on a bill introduced last week to create a 19-member blue ribbon panel to identify strengths and weaknesses of the UW System and to set a course for the system’s future.
The Cap Times reports how the bill, introduced by Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, came about after “hundreds of demonstrators occupied the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point administration building to protest proposed cuts to liberal arts programs.”
The blue ribbon proposal, the newspaper reports, is co-sponsored by 21 Democratic members of the Assembly.
In an effort to put this topic in perspective, the Cap Times spoke with UW-Madison’s Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
, and a faculty affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education
Hillman tells the Cap Times that the blue ribbon commission is a “very good idea,” noting that such study commissions are standard practice in other states.
“It’s exactly the role government should play, in terms of planning and research of trends and practices, to help colleges around the state perform and help families have more access to more affordable quality education,” Hillman tells the Cap Times.
Hillman teaches higher education finance, policy and introductory statistics for educational researchers. His research focuses on federal student aid, state funding models and educational opportunity.
In a display of public distrust of the UW System administration, the Cap Times reported that “students, faculty, staff and community members in Stevens Point joined in the protest of a plan to cut 13 majors to respond to a $4.5 million structural deficient. Art, English, history, political science and other humanities and social science majors would be cut in favor of more technical fields of study.”
Hillmans tells the Cap Times that the proposed blue ribbon panel could bring people together to improve higher education
“People might find they are more in agreement than not,” Hillman tells the newspaper. “The idea of having this type of blue ribbon panel also puts the issues in the public domain. That could help defuse politics and build trust that is lacking.”
The Cap Times notes that, as proposed in the legislation, the commission membership would include: president of the UW System, four faculty and four academic staff members from UW System schools that have been identified as underserved or undergoing significant program change; four UW System students, one higher education expert, one workforce development expert, and four legislators.