The University of Wisconsin System President is Fiercely Working to Make Changes

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The University of Wisconsin system has a new president and in his four short months in the role, he is wasting no time to start implementing the plans he had before he was even hired.

Ray Cross started in February after the previous president stepped down in December. He already made an impact in the system when he helped develop and launch the U.W. Flexible Option program while he was the chancellor of U.W. Colleges and U.W. Extension.

"I'm, well I'm going to college that's what I'm excited for."

For Haley Budrow and her parents, there was no question in their minds that she was going to go to college.

"Whether it's your four-year college or your two-year technical college system, your investing in your education, which invests in your future," said her mom, Julie Budrow.

They're looking at U.W. Stevens Point as well as a few other U.W. colleges.

"When we go to colleges for visits, we're always looking at growth and what's new going on and what's new being built just so that there's investment in the system," she said.

That's exactly what Cross is trying to do, along with giving more Wisconsin residents the opportunity to get a higher education.

"If the economy is going to grow, we need talented people to make it grow," said Cross. "Right now that gap is widening. If we don't grow the number of students, number of adults rather, with a college degree. It's that important to the economy of this state."

Going to college is no simple task.

"There is the rising cost of going to college. There's the forever declining state support. It doesn't matter who's in office, that's the direction we've been going for the last 20 years and it doesn't seem to change," said UWSP Chancellor, Bernie Patterson.

Cross has several plans he's already bringing to law makers to help make college more affordable, however. If his recommendation gets approved, the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant will get one of its biggest increases ever, which will allow every eligible applicants to not only receive it, but also get an even higher amount in their second year. He also wants to increase the number of duel enrollment students in high schools so they can complete some college credits early and get a degree faster. Another issue he's addressing is transfer students.

"We have a lot of students who come from two year schools to come complete their degree here and that getting those transfers is always a really big concern," said UWSP Vice President of the Student Government Association, Katie Cronmiller.

Cross recently signed a undergraduate credit transfer agreement with Wisconsin Technical Colleges, helping students repeat fewer classes, get their diplomas faster, and spend less.

"Things are on the move," said Patterson. "We're getting things done that we haven't done before, but most importantly, what Ray has done for this university is to start a conversation, just not for UW Stevens Point, but for the entire system and for the entire state."

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