UW-Extension begins reorganization process for Cooperative Extension

Proposed changes follow cuts in state funding to the UW System

Released April 8, 2016

Cooperative Extension, a division of University of Wisconsin-Extension, has begun planning for a reorganization that will sharpen its focus on education, streamline administration, and meet state budget cut mandates.

During March, UW-Extension leaders charged an 11-member steering committee for the project, dubbed nEXT Generation. The committee has since approved a planning framework and begun to establish focus areas for 20 or more work groups.

Cooperative Extension staff, with offices in all 72 Wisconsin counties and three tribal nations, provide education and service programs focused on agriculture, natural resources, community and economic development, family living and youth development. County governments provide at least 40 percent of funding for local Cooperative Extension staff, as well as clerical, supplies, internet and travel support.

Planning the reorganization may take four to eight months starting in May, followed by implementation. UW-Extension leaders ask county partners to consider keeping budget and facility plans stable for 2017.

“We’re going to take the time to do this right, and that means working with county partners,” said Richard M. Klemme, dean and director of Cooperative Extension. “In time, we expect some changes in staffing, but nothing that should cause counties to rethink their plans for 2016 and into 2017.”

UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen announced priorities for Cooperative Extension reorganization on Feb. 10. The reorganization follows a $3.6 million annual cut in state funding (part of a $250 million overall cut to the UW System’s biennial budget).

Proposed changes draw on recommendations developed last fall and on extensive feedback from county and tribal leaders, agricultural commodity groups and others with a stake in Cooperative Extension’s future. Changes include:

  • Keeping a Cooperative Extension office in every county while establishing multi-county areas that consolidate administration.
  • Structuring county and area jobs to let educators and researchers focus on education and research rather than administrative tasks.
  • Respecting different levels of county investment, ensuring that each county receives services proportionate to its funding.

The Feb. 10 announcements finalized multi-county areas while setting aside sample county and area staffing models suggested in the original recommendations. Sandeen has asked project leaders to customize county and area staffing models to reflect real local needs and investments.

Next steps include seeking additional ideas and input from county and tribal leaders, commodities groups and other stakeholders, some of whom will take part in planning work groups.

“County leaders and Wisconsin residents have told me that they didn’t realize how a cut to the UW System would trickle down and affect them so directly,” said Sandeen in her Feb. 10 announcement.

“This process has made it clear that the state of Wisconsin depends on Cooperative Extension, and the people of Wisconsin see tremendous value in our work.”


UW-Extension, which receives the third largest amount of federal grants and contracts in the UW System, serves Wisconsin families, business and communities statewide through offices in all 72 Wisconsin counties and three tribal nations, continuing education services through all 26 UW System campuses, the statewide broadcasting networks of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, and entrepreneurship and economic development activities by county throughout the state. Information is available at: http://www.uwex.edu/.

Molly Vidall

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