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Wisconsin’s public university leaders will receive a 15% bonus – if they meet retention goals

Dive Card:

  • Most chancellors at Wisconsin’s state universities will receive annual bonuses of up to 15% of their base salaries if their institutions meet key metrics tied to strategic goals, the state’s Board of Regents voted Monday.
  • For fiscal year 2025, the extra compensation, which the system calls “compensation-at-risk,” will be tied to first- through second-year retention rates for undergraduate students, according to documents from a system spokesman. The arrangement does not apply to the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Jennifer Mnookinwhose bonus is tied to her staying in the role.
  • Specific goals for each chancellor will be created after 10-day fall registration numbers are released this year. The compensation increases come as many of the state’s universities face budget deficits and challenges to maintain.

Dive Insight:

Declining retention rates within the University of Wisconsin have been flagged as one of the most important misery faced by the system.

They were at the top of the list of themes that emerged from an in-depth financial analysis of the system’s universities conducted with consulting firm Deloitte.

In the spring, Jay Rothman, the system’s president, pointed to lower retention rates, along with rising costs, lagging government funding and declining cash reserves at some universities.

Total enrollment at the University of Wisconsin fell almost 12% between its peak in 2010 and 2022, when the figure reached a trough of 160,782 students, before a modest increase in 2023.

Tuition income has decreased with enrollment at many of the system’s institutions, while costs have increased that they have gone through much of the higher world. As a result, six of Wisconsin’s public universities are facing structural deficits for fiscal year 2025.

All this comes after the system’s institutions have made major cuts in spending, i.a the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, as reduced its workforce by 10% last year.

“For years, we’ve tried to make the money pass on the backs of those who provide the education that students deserve and parents expect — our faculty and staff,” Rothman said this spring. – It shouldn’t have to continue.

At the time, Rothman highlighted increased retention as a potential opportunity for the system.

Now the Regents reset the metrics to encourage Chancellor.

Among the system’s 13 universities, all but two saw year-over-year increases in second-year retention in 2022, according to a 10-year study of the system. The exceptions were UW-Parkside, which had a steady retention rate, and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, which saw a slight decline.

Systemwide, second-year retention rose 1.3 percentage points to 82.6% in 2022. While that figure is slightly above the systemwide figure of 82.3% for 2013, all but three the network’s universities had lower second-year retention in 2022 than in 2013.

In addition, there are significant differences within the system.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison had the highest retention rate, at 94.5%, in 2022. But more than half of the system’s universities had rates at least 20 percentage points below that number, including the Parkside campus, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Green Bay.

A recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that at four-year public institutions, 86.4% of students enrolling in the fall of 2022 returned to college for the second year, with 78% choosing to stay at the same institution.

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