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Perry Responds to Osh NW Editorial re: Merger Ideas

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Jim Perry, Campus Executive Officer and DeanYour support for Rep. Kreibich's proposal to make the two-year UW campuses satellites of regional four-year universities demonstrates how easy it is for even an editorial staff to fall into a trap when it does not do its research. Responsible journalism demands that you provide details, not sound bites.

What Kreibich is proposing in 2005 was abandoned in 1972. It did not work then, and it won't work now. More importantly, it will not save money and it will not further the educational needs for the people of Wisconsin.

In the early 70's UW-Fond du Lac was a satellite of UWO, and UW-Fox Valley was tied to Green Bay. People still recall how funds, educational materials and equipment were diverted from the satellite campuses to the main campus, and that students at Fond du Lac and Fox Valley were treated as second class citizens. Student and community interests were harmed under this plan. Recognizing that, the State undid the "satellite" concept and consolidated the two-year campuses as one institution to serve the people of Wisconsin.

Your editorial suggests major cost savings by cutting janitors and student support staff and advisors. You are suggesting that, "Heck, we can run a bus load of janitors from Oshkosh up the road every couple of weeks. No need to clean the po' folks place that often anyway. Student Services and advising? Well, maybe we'll let 'em get it online." Or not. All of the functions you named in your editorial existed on the "satellite" campuses when we were part of the four-year campuses. The projected cost savings are phantom.

If you think your position upsets me, you're right. But the citizens of Winnebago, Fond du Lac, and Outagamie Counties ought to be even more angry, because your callous appraisal does not provide them with any facts.

Here are the facts. (I'll provide the sources upon request). Because you compared the Colleges with UWO I will do the same.

The 13 UW Colleges campuses with our 12,000 plus students (about 1000 more than UWO) had an operating budget of $78.9 million compared to UWO's $131.4 million in 2003. We had 9.4 students per employee, compared with 7.1 for UWO. The instructional cost to the taxpayers at the Colleges in 2004-05 is $7002 per student; UWO's cost is $7614 per student. At UWO's costs the taxpayers would pay $7,344,000 more to educate our 12,000 students (12,000 x $612 = $7,344,000).

There are very good reasons why UWO has higher instructional costs; they have a different mission and different needs than the UW Colleges. But if the Northwestern and Rep. Kreibich are concerned about costs and efficiency, you and he should advocate that first and second year college students attend a UW Colleges campus instead of UWO or one of the other 4 year campuses.

So editorial staff and readers, are we really operating "thirteen UW Oshkosh's" here as the editorial claimed? Not by a long shot. Battles waged about higher education in the UW System shouldn't be about turf, they should be about dollars and sense (pun intended). Only then will the taxpayers win.

Final thought: We extend to you yet another invitation to come to our campuses so you'll learn firsthand that logical arguments are based on facts and not "sound bites;" and that those that don't study history are condemned to commit historical mistakes. The proposal to make the Colleges part of the four-year campuses is a bad idea whose time has gone.

Perry's Sig
James W. Perry, Ph.D.
Campus Executive Officer and Dean
UW-Fox Valley

Posted 1/25/2005