UW System prez says university funding key to state’s future

UW System President Ray Cross called on business leaders to stress to lawmakers that funding the university system is an investment in the state’s future.

Speaking to the Madison Rotary Club yesterday, Cross acknowledged the state is facing a tough budget and the university system shouldn’t be exempt as lawmakers manage scarce resources. But he said the university should be viewed as a partner and investment, rather than an expense.

He pointed to UW-Madison as an example, saying that while the state provides $470 million in funding, the university draws in more than $1 billion in research dollars.

“Our commitment is to not just be the University of Wisconsin, but to also be the university for Wisconsin,” Cross said.

Cross stressed the university’s role as long-term in nature, both helping policymakers predict what the future holds as well as acting as partners in determining that future.

“We should be sitting down with legislators talking about what the future may be like,” Cross said.

He noted that immediate job needs are often given a lot of thought, such as unmet demand for welders or software coders. But he said that it’s the work of “high-impact talent” like engineers and computer scientists that create that demand.