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Reilly discusses proposed grad increase
Friday, April 9, 2010
 
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REILLY DISCUSSES PROPOSED GRAD INCREASE
HERE AND NOW REPORTS
The UW System Board of Regents met this week to discuss goals intended to increase the number of conferred University of Wisconsin diplomas by 30 percent in the next 15 years, increasing the total number of college graduates by 80,000. UW System President Kevin Reilly joins Here and Now to explain and discuss these goals, including how they will be funded.

 

Here and Now
TRANSCRIPT
Frederica Freyberg:
Now this. The UW System wants to see a day where 50 percent or more of all adults in Wisconsin have a college degree. There's a way to go toward that. Right now only about a quarter of our population has that diploma. UW System President Kevin Reilly is pushing the so-called “growth agenda for Wisconsin,” which includes more graduates and more jobs for them through expanded university research and development. We welcome President Reilly now from Fond du Lac, and thanks for joining us.

Kevin Reilly:
Great to be with you from a beautiful UW-Fond du Lac campus.

Frederica Freyberg:
You are taking on the biggest issue of our time, that being jobs. But toward that, why the push to put out more graduates?

Kevin Reilly:
Well, we know that states that have more college graduates have higher per capita income, lower crime, lower use of social services. They're healthier by and large. Having a more highly educated population does a lot of good things, not only for individuals, but for the entire state. And we want to put out a workforce into those new jobs that we'll help to create that will make those jobs stay here in Wisconsin. 

Frederica Freyberg:
Well, because, I was going to suggest that we've long lamented the so-called “brain drain” out of Wisconsin. How do you hold on to these graduates that you want to educate?

Kevin Reilly:
Yeah. If you just have more graduates and the jobs aren't here, the graduates leave. If you just create more jobs and there's not a workforce for them, the companies leave. So this is a little like building the bicycle as you ride it. We need both to ramp up our educational attainment and at the same time to use university research to help create the jobs and industries of the future and help our staple industries like paper, agriculture, manufacturing industries to be outfitted with the latest advanced technology so they are competitive nationally and internationally.

Frederica Freyberg:
Speaking of competition, how does Wisconsin compare to other states in the number of degrees held?

Kevin Reilly:
Well, we have about 25.5 percent of our population with a baccalaureate degree. The national average is about 27.5 percent. Minnesota now has 32 percent or 33 percent of the population with a college degree and their per capita income is now about $5,000 ahead of ours in Minnesota.

Frederica Freyberg:
Are there particular campuses across the state that you're targeting for increased enrollment? 

Kevin Reilly:
Well, each campus will be part of this and will do its part. It's not just about enrollment. It's about ‘how do we do better with retention and graduation?’ The students we have now, moving more of them on to getting a credential. How do we deliver courses in video and online and compressed mode so that people can move through them more easily and more quickly? So this is not about adding 80,000 new students. It's about getting a better yield of 80,000 additional degrees from our students with some additional enrollment, but using those other methods as well.

Frederica Freyberg:
What's our issue with retention of students, and how do we look there in terms of comparing to other states and the number of kids who start and then ultimately finish? 

Kevin Reilly:
Well, there's some good news and some bad news. We do very well in the comparisons with the peer universities. That is, we graduate more of our students than our competitors do, if you want to think of them that way. But we still don't graduate nearly enough of our students. We graduate in the low 60 percent of students in six years. If we could ramp that up closer to 100 percent, you can get some sense of the additional yield we'd have of college graduates in Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:
What's the sense as to why we have an issue with the retention in that regard? 

Kevin Reilly:
Well, you know, I don't know that we have an issue so much as students these days come in, they tend to take courses at one institution, drop out, work for a while, come back, take courses at another institution. They may need to work for a year. They may have a personal or family issue they have to deal with. So part of what we need to do is make it easy for students to come back in and move through a degree program if they have left for a while.

Frederica Freyberg:
Now, if we're churning out more diplomas, do we suffer in quality?

Kevin Reilly:
Well, we certainly don't want to do that and I think we're going to try to be very careful about that. We're saying we will need some new state investment to help us hire additional faculty so we keep that faculty-student ratio at a reasonable level. And I think we need to think what quality means in some new ways, what a quality degree is for a 38-year-old single mom with two kids who's working full-time and wants to go back and complete a baccalaureate degree if she's got two or two-and-a-half years of credit, is different from what a 18- or 19-year-old freshman wants who's coming to study for a four-year degree in philosophy at UW-Madison. So broadening our thinking to redefine quality for different audiences is important. 

Frederica Freyberg:
Now, the agenda calls for a 30 percent increase in undergraduate degrees 15 years from now. What is the price tag on this?

Kevin Reilly:
At this point we're just putting out the degree goals, working with our campuses. We're going to work slowly but steadily through each biennium to figure out what the cost would be as we gradually ramp up. So the regents will have a budget proposal out for the ’11-’13 biennium this August. Between now and August we'll be building that initial ask. So there is no clear number now for what it would cost. What is clear is that we can't sustain the current costs per student if we're going to add 80,000 new degrees. We've got to find some new ways to help people complete degrees at lower costs.

Frederica Freyberg:
All right, President Reilly, thanks very much for joining us.

Kevin Reilly:
Great to be with you.

 
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