- Associated Press - Thursday, May 25, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A look at some of the notable changes the Legislature’s budget committee made Thursday to the University of Wisconsin System’s portion of Gov. Scott Walker’s state spending plan:

-The committee approved Walker’s plan to expand a program that grants free tuition at UW System and technical colleges to children and spouses of dead or disabled veterans. Currently the veteran had to have been a state resident upon enlistment.

Walker’s proposal would require disabled veterans to have lived at least five consecutive years in Wisconsin and a dead veteran to have lived in Wisconsin for at least five years as an adult for their spouses and children to qualify. The committee modified the proposal to also require that the spouse or children would have to live in Wisconsin for five straight years prior to enrollment.

-It authorized regents to create an engineering school at UW-Green Bay.

-It prohibited regents from transferring money to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation without committee approval. The foundation lacks the cash to cover $14.5 million in debt for several real estate projects. The state is currently considering a settlement with the foundation’s creditors.

The state Department of Justice is investigating the real estate projects, which were the subject of a lawsuit the UW System filed in January against former Chancellor Richard Wells and his chief business officer, Thomas Sonnleitner. The lawsuit alleges that they improperly funneled $11 million in university money into the projects through the private foundation.

-The committee exempted students who serve in the Wisconsin National Guard or an armed forces reserve unit from nonresident tuition if the student has resided in Wisconsin for six months.

-It suspended a current state law that requires the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an annual financial audit of the UW System. Instead it will require the system to contract with an independent accounting firm to perform the audit. Rep. John Nygren, a committee co-chair, told reporters he thinks an outside auditor can dig deeper.

-It increased the number of degree and certificate programs offered through the UW Flexible Option program by at least 25 percent by Dec. 1, 2019. Walker’s budget called for a 50 percent increase. The program allows adult students to earn credits by demonstrating real-life experience.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1


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