To say 2020 has been and continues to be a very different year would be an understatement. And yet, though uncertainty lies ahead, CAFES will push on in its ongoing emphasis on offering the highest quality educational experiences for our students.
Following the end of Spring 2020, this Fall will see a number of the courses in programs in the College taught in an online, alternative format. This is the reality still with COVID-19 and managing concerns for the health of students, faculty and staff. We know many of our students chose UWRF because of the hands-on experiences they want to get in and out of the classroom. Our goal will be to offer as much on-campus engagement with students as possible but it certainly will look different than a year ago. Opportunities outside the classroom will be different as well. Campus events and activities will be restricted in size, with health and safety guidelines in place. All but essential University travel during the Fall semester at least is cancelled. Other modifications to campus operations will also be in place. Rest assured though, while the modes of interacting with students will be different, faculty and staff remain committed to maximizing that interaction, whether face-to-face or online, in a productive and safe environment.
At the same time we’re dealing with COVID-19, UWRF is facing some significant budget challenges. Prior to the pandemic, we knew Fall 2020 enrollments of new students – freshmen and transfer students – were likely to see a decrease from last year. Though still a strong number, for the first time in 6 years the Fall 2019 new student total in CAFES did not exceed the previous year. Fall 2020 would likely see a similar result – strong numbers but down somewhat. The effects of COVID-19 and movement of more classes online are yet to be fully determined but we expect a smaller class of incoming students as well as perhaps continuing students. Combined with challenges in State revenues and budget challenges in the UW System, UWRF is in the position of needing to plan for a reduced budget in 2020-21 and into the near future. Short term decisions, including employee furloughs, have accounted for some one-time savings. Furloughs and additional one-time reductions will continue into the next year as well. CAFES and the other Colleges and units at UWRF are each developing scenarios for base budget reductions beginning in 2020-21, with an initial target of 10%. Fall enrollments will help inform additional decisions.
So, the year ahead is a challenging one to be sure. And while the full effects are still to be determined, one thing is certain: the faculty and staff in CAFES remain committed to working with our students to the greatest extent possible. We will do what it takes to maintain this core value that has been the basis of our mode of operation for so long. I hope next time we have a chance to visit here or via another medium or venue that we can all look back on our successes in spite of the increased challenges.
In the meantime, thank you for your continued good thoughts and support.
Dale Gallenberg, Dean of CAFES