Wisconsin and Connecticut Weigh Roles of Flagships, Systems

March 2, 2011

The relative roles of and relationships between research universities and state college systems are in the state policy spotlight as governors trot out their 2012 budgets. On Tuesday, as expected, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin called for splitting off the flagship University of Wisconsin at Madison from the statewide public college system. Walker said giving Madison "public authority" status -- which he said could also soon be granted to the university's other major research campus, in Milwaukee -- was necessary to give Madison "the tools it needs to remain a world leader in research and instruction -- while continuing to be a driver of economic development for our state." Walker said he was "open to working with lawmakers from both political parties on expanding this concept to the other campuses throughout the University of Wisconsin system," many of whose leaders have opposed the prospect of separating the system's most visible and prestigious campuses from the rest.

Also Tuesday, legislators in Connecticut challenged a proposal by that state's governor, Dannel P. Malloy, that would create a statewide system, but leave the flagship University of Connecticut on its own, The Connecticut Mirror reported. "I feel the UConn system needs to be in the same umbrella," the newspaper quoted State Representative Toni E. Walker as saying. "I want to see another model, and that model includes the University of Connecticut.... If we're going to do this let's not isolate the other universities." Connecticut's commissioner of higher education, Michael Meotti, said at the legislative hearing that treating the institutions differently made sense, given their different student bodies and missions. "That sets them worlds apart. If you put them together then you run too great a risk that one institution's issues will dominate over another."

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