It’s well accepted political science that if you want to know where the action is, follow the money. Put another way, “talk is talk, but money walks.”
Such is the case surrounding the state’s biggest current issue: racial justice.
Almost every responsible entity that is trying to pull our society together has embraced a “DEI” strategy. That acronym stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness. Leaders are bending over backward to make their organizations more accommodating to disadvantaged segments of our population.
At the university level, the new programs range from better access for people of color and low income students of all stripes, to improved mentoring, remedial education, internships, help with social problems, and group support. They are all directionally sound.
But they stop short of the major issue: equitable funding.
If funding followed performance the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Parkside would be receiving much greater DEI money. They both lead the way on enrolling and graduating disadvantaged students.
Note that UWM has about 25,000 students and 32% are students of color, the highest of any UW campus. It has 7,236 low-income students who receive Pell grants to help with college expenses.
UW-Parkside is tops with 18.6% Hispanic students.
That contrasts sharply with the disbursement of state tax dollars to the 13 university campuses in the state. General purpose revenues from the state are about $12,000 per student per year at UW-Madison, compared to about $6,000 at UWM and $4500 at the other 11 other four-year campuses, including Parkside.
Clearly, there is a funding gap of Grand Canyon proportions. It cannot be explained away by the research mission of UW-Madison, because our invaluable flagship campus pulls in around $1 billion per year with research grants.
It also harvests license money from its intellectual property development.
In an era that seeks equity for all segments of society, the university cannot duck this screaming issue.
The Madison campus has made a major move to equalize the resources to different students through “Bucky’s Promise” that makes higher education accessible to a broader range of students. It aims to eliminate persistent equity gaps at colleges and universities.
Within that strategic direction, UWM is partnering with Carthage College, Milwaukee Area Technical college and UW-Parkside in launching “Moon Shot for Equity.” It is a national initiative that means “helping many more Americans complete college degrees and credentials of values – especially those often left behind: low-income, first-generation and students of color.
That nationwide initiative provides a ready-made solution in Wisconsin for evening out the financial resources to students of all colors.
Tommy Thompson, interim UW president, and the UW board of regents have the opportunity through Bucky’s Promise and Moon Shot to walk the talk on DEI.