Appleton summit puts higher education in spotlight

With $300 million in budget cuts looming for the University of Wisconsin System, community leaders and educators discussed challenges and brainstormed ideas Wednesday for making public higher education more sustainable in the state.

The three-hour invite-only higher education summit held at Liberty Hall brought together more than 50 representatives from regional businesses, schools, colleges, technical schools and community organizations to discuss concerns and potential solutions on topics ranging from declining budgets to accessibility to cooperation among public institutions.

It marked the first in a series of such brainstorming sessions — dubbed “The Future of Public Higher Education in Wisconsin: A Public Discussion of Purpose, Relationship and Structure of the UW System” — to be held across the state. The next one is set for Thursday in Wausau.

Wednesday’s participants broke into groups to discuss four questions, then reconvened to discuss with the entire room.

Nick Madison, superintendent of the Brillion School District, said his group wondered about the perception of higher education in the state.

“Is it valued? Is it looked at as elitist? Is it looked at as practical? Is it seen as necessary?” he asked.