Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 3, 2012

Casper monitors federal, state policy for college

Tim Casper

After reaching his career goal of serving as an appointed official in a governor's administration, Tim Casper is back in the higher education realm as public affairs and government relations manager for Madison Area Technical College.

The 1999 La Follette School alum has been involved in governance his entire adult life, from service as vice president of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay's student government to the number 2 spot with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, spending a total of eight years in the Wisconsin governor's office and in top leadership spots with two state agencies.

Throughout his career, his La Follette School training in management and policy analysis has been invaluable. Casper assures current La Follette School students of this when he talks with them in their classes. "880, the class in microeconomic policy analysis, is a solid foundation for other courses and for creating a framework for thinking about issues in the workplace," he says. "Whether someone is interested in the public or nonprofit sector, La Follette will give a student a solid set of technical skills," Casper says. "Students learn about how government operates at the highest level and how that is different from the private sector. In the public sector, policymakers have to consider issues of equal treatment and equity, not only efficiency."

For Madison College, Casper tracks policy changes at the state and federal level that affect the college and recently added responsibility for managing the college's grants department. The most recent state budget not only dealt with college finances, it changed a statewide information technology system that the college relies on, Casper says.

"At the federal level, I've been tracking an executive order from the White House that directs colleges to provide veterans certain information and assurances related to their experiences as students," Casper says. "The memorandum of understanding did not contain a lot of detail, so I'm working with others to bring more clarity to what the federal government expects colleges to provide veteran students."

Casper finds that his experiences as deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue readily carry over to the college. "DOR and Madison College are both large, complex organizations that serve a large number of customers — taxpayers vs. students," Casper says. "Both depend on information technology to interact with customers, whether it is paying taxes or signing up for courses."
The big difference, Casper says, is that the college competes for customers, for students. "DOR has no competition for taxpayers," he notes. "That competition makes the job interesting: The college has to think about how it is going to best serve students."

Casper came to Madison College after serving as deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. In that position he provided leadership for two major IT projects — one integrating the state's income sales and excise tax processing into a single electronic platform and the other replacing 30 separate systems that stored information and provided calculations for activities related to the assessment of manufacturing property and calculation of equalized values.

After graduating from UW–Green Bay in 1995, Casper enrolled at La Follette after working for two years with the United Council of UW Students, a statewide organization representing students at all of the UW System campuses. "Ultimately, I wanted to work as an appointed official in a governor's administration," Casper says. "I also wanted to learn about how to manage larger organizations."

He held a one-year project assistantship with the UW System Administration's Office of State Relations. In addition, he and two other La Follette students worked with Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH), then a new state entity tasked with establishing an information technology infrastructure for eligible schools, libraries and other educational institutions.  "The agency was beginning to think about what a performance management outcome system would look like," Casper says. "We looked to see how other states established performance outcomes in this area, but we couldn't identify any. In the late 1990s, people hadn't yet thought about how teachers should change their pedagogy to take advantage of the new tools that were now accessible in the classroom. We ended up recommending that more thought needed to be put into which types of data to collect, given the changes taking place in teaching."

Before joining DOR, Casper served as executive assistant in the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Before that he served as the senior policy director and in various public policy positions for the governor. He focused on the budget, economic development, education and health-care expansion. He earlier worked in the Legislature and at UW-Madison.

The policy analysis and management skills he learned at La Follette have come into play. In the governor's office, he addressed tax policy issues. "Even before that, at the Department of Health and Family Services, I analyzed what would happen if Medicaid recipients with disabilities were allowed to maintain Medicaid services and Social Security benefits, to answer the question of how much more they would work and earn to be better off financially."

"The La Follette School's exposure of its students to microeconomics is helpful in evaluating public policy options," Casper says. "That understanding provides policymakers with more items to consider so we can make more informed decisions. Internally, having knowledge about data helps one persuade others and illustrate why a change is needed."