UW-Parkside cutting 10 percent of workforce

Public university is the latest to cut jobs as it tries to manage budget deficit

A green sign says "Welcome to University of Wisconsin Parkside."
A sign outside UW-Parkside in Somers, Wisconsin. Angela Major/WPR

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is the latest public university to announce staffing cuts to balance its budget.

Interim UW-Parkside Chancellor Scott Menke told staff this week about 10 percent of workforce positions would be eliminated over the next year through a combination of voluntary separations, layoffs and attrition.

That amounts to about 50 full-time positions. Employees identified for layoffs will receive notice in February.

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The university employed 525 people last year and has about 4,000 students.

“Next week, Huron Consultants will be on campus facilitating a budget planning workshop to help us continue to examine ways to manage our budget deficit,” Menke said in the campus-wide email sent Wednesday. “The workshop is designed to evaluate how we are spending money, as well as identify operational efficiencies.”

The layoffs are the second round of budget cuts announced at Parkside in recent months. In August, the university sent a letter to staff stating all employees would be required to take unpaid furlough days, reduce department budgets by 10 percent and pause hiring except for positions deemed “critical need.”

At that time, Menke said Parkside was facing a budget deficit “of at least $4 million” by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2024. UW System budget documents show the deficit is expected to be closer to $5.3 million. The furloughs began in September.

News of the staff cuts comes the same week Parkside announced enrollment numbers for fall increased 1.6 percent and the school had the largest incoming first-year students class since 2019.

Overall enrollment at the Universities of Wisconsin grew over the previous year for the first time since 2014.

But years of declining enrollment and other market conditions have put most of the system’s two- and four-year campuses in cost-cutting mode. Ten of the 13 four-year schools have budget deficits.

In October, UW-Oshkosh eliminated 200 staff members as that school grapples with a projected $18 million budget deficit.

That same month, UW-Platteville announced it was eliminating 111 positions to cover a $9 million deficit.

Budget deficits are not new for UW System schools. In 2015, Republicans in the Legislature and former Gov. Scott Walker passed a budget that included a $250 million cut to the university system.

That came with a freeze on residential undergraduate tuition increases imposed by the Legislature and a directive that the universities were to spend down their fund balances from tuition and other revenues to make up the difference.