Fund UW Now!

Coordinated demonstration and events on the theme of "Fund UW Now" are happening across the Universities of Wisconsin this spring, led by AFT-Wisconsin local organizers. Together, we hope to draw attention to the importance of fully funding our Universities and supporting public higher education. Our union members care about working conditions for all educators and staff within the Universities of Wisconsin system, and we are concerned about the many negative impacts on our students.

Unnecessary and politically-motivated funding cuts have harmed our campuses and communities. Recent legislative overreaches withheld faculty raises in exchange for cuts to programs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. By organizing these rolling events, union members across Wisconsin have a simple goal: raise public awareness and keep this conversation in the headlines through February and March of the spring semester.

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Effects of budget cuts on students

As professors, our primary duty is to educate students. The chronic defunding of public higher education over the course of decades has negatively impacted students in myriad ways:

Fewer course offerings

  • Classes that students need for graduation are sometimes canceled due to low enrollment, increasing time to graduation and cost to the student. Fewer course offerings over summer and winter reduce opportunities for students to graduate early.
  • Shortage of faculty leads to fewer sections of required courses. Students often face long waitlists for required classes, increasing time to graduation and cost to the student. In some cases, students are unable to take classes intended for freshmen until their junior or senior years.

Discontinued programs

  • Some schools have stopped offering foreign language classes and majors due to low enrollments or inability to hire professors. Knowing a second language is an important tool in a global workforce.
  • Students whose degree programs are discontinued due to faculty cuts must choose between transferring to a different institution or trying to finish their degrees with much reduced course offerings in their majors.

Campus closures

  • Campus closures reduce opportunities for students to take classes closer to home, creating unnecessary barriers and increasing cost.
  • In the past year, several UW two-year campuses have been affected by diminishing enrollment and budget cuts driven by austerity politics: UW-Platteville Richland is closing; UW-Milwaukee at Washington County and UW-Oshkosh, Fond du Lac Campus are ending in-person classes in June 2024; UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus is reducing face-to-face teaching.

Student health, well-being, and equity

  • Disabled students are receiving less support through disability services, creating unnecessary barriers to success.
  • Student health services are not as robust or easily accessible, moving to off campus locations at some schools.
  • Fewer faculty, instructors, and support staff have made it difficult for students in crisis to find the help they need.
  • Fewer support staff has made it difficult for first-generation and at-risk students to get the academic support they need.

Increased faculty workload

  • Increased class sizes and instructor workloads reduce the amount of individualized attention professors can provide, which is crucial for student retention and success.
  • The increase in professor workloads means they have less time available for other student enrichment activities, like club mentoring.
  • Having fewer professors able to advise students means less individualized attention, making students more likely to fall through the cracks.

Fewer permanent faculty and increased turnover

  • Adjunctification, worsening job security and lower compensation has increased professor turnover, which means that if a student needs a letter of recommendation or to finish an incomplete, that professor may no longer be available.
  • There are fewer permanent faculty knowledgeable about and devoted to each campus's unique mission and student needs.

Reduction in state funding

UW schools have struggled with budget deficits for years due the tuition freeze instituted in 2013 coupled with decreasing enrollment and state funding: Since 2010, state funding has fallen from #1 to #3 as source of UW System revenues.

Based on the same report, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that:

  • Taxpayer funding per FTE student in FY 2022 stood at $9,510, good for 29th in the US, and below the national average of $10,237 per student.
  • Wisconsin lags behind our neighboring states in state funding for higher education: Illinois spent $22,970 per student, Michigan $9,909, and Minnesota $9,802.
  • State and local taxpayers spent $13,956 per FTE student in funding two-year technical colleges and only $6,227 per student in UW system schools — one of the widest gaps in the country.
  • UW system faculty numbers have declined from 6,384 in 2014 to 5,421 in 2022.

Changes in taxpayer funding and tuition from 2004 to 2018

Chart data source: State funding trends for the UW system by Nick Hillman (UW-Madison). Chart data in 2016 dollars. Based on Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Informational Paper #32.

Demonstration dates

For media inquiries and questions, contact local organizers or Jon Shelton (shelton at