A New Walker Report on Wisconsin Higher Education

August 22, 2012 | Blog

Don’t you just love last-minute breaking news when you’re trying to head out the door on vacation? Come on…..! 


Tim Sullivan, businessman, has issued a blueprint prepared for Governor Scott Walker that includes some significant plans for higher education.

Among its highlights:

  • The skills gap demonstrated by highly-esteemed economists, as well as leading Wisconsin organizations with sizable expertise in business and higher education is apparently a “myth.”  Writes Sullivan, “there are opportunities available if people know where to look and can see the value.” (p.101) Sure, he admits his is no scientific study– after all, he is doing policy analysis by anecdote, drawing on his experiences at his own company– but gee, he’s sure confident there’s a myth out there to be busted!
  • The costs of Wisconsin Technical Colleges are too high because they are doing too much–namely, wasting time on liberal arts college transfer, “spending millions” before “technical education even comes into the picture.”
  • The new online initiative in UW System is expected to “change the face of education in Wisconsin.”  Boy, and we just thought it was an addition, not a replacement….
  • UW System, including UW-Madison, is “failing” to produce enough new start-ups, and needs to be more focused on business collaborations.
  • We should open the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (which already runs out of money every year compared to demand among degree-seeking students) to non-degree seeking students. Yes, he said “open” the grant– not add funding to the grant. Hmm.
  • UW System should pay the additional tuition if students don’t finish their degrees in 4 years.  That’s right– UWS– not the state, even though economists like John Bound and Sarah Turner convincingly demonstrate that time-to-degree rises because states cut funding to universities! 
  • The publics should act more like the privates and give out more financial aid.  The latter give out a wider range of aid.  Again, duh….wonder why.

Ok, enough. Read the darned thing for yourself, and write in and tell us all about your favorite parts.  Tim Sullivan, businessman, here to save higher ed.

1 Comment

  1. Reply


    August 22, 2012

    Oh, gosh, where to start. Two of my favorite parts, uncited (the first footnotes don't appear until page 21 for some reason):

    "The U.S. skills gap widened due in part to government intervention in the 1980s. The country, fearing international competition, began to focus students on a four-year college preparatory curriculum. Alternative forms of education, like shop class or apprenticeships, were deemphasized and defunded." (p. 10)

    "Wisconsin’s K-12 educators tell us that students do not want to go into manufacturing. This is troubling because the educational requirements for these jobs is increasing beyond a high school diploma." (p. 8)

    I have no idea where they got the first assertion, which strikes me as a bizarre formulation that, among other things, ignores the defunding of the public K-12 system in favor of a cabal of evil government interventionists. The second chunk probably comes from an article cited later in the piece, an interview with Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Thornton, who described MPS high school students involved in 10 career clusters, the least popular of which is manufacturing--he specifically mentions welding. So, ONE "K-12 educator" suggests that a SUBSET of HIGH SCHOOL students IN HIS DISTRICT are more interested in "health care or automotive" career clusters than a manufacturing cluster. I would also point out the lack of logical connection between the first sentence in that quote and the second sentence.

    These two examples seem sadly representative of the entire report to me.

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