UW increases tuitionThe University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted 11-4 last Thursday to boost tuition by an average of 5.5%, effective this fall.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted 11-4 last Thursday to boost tuition by an average of 5.5%, effective this fall.
A UW System news release says, “The increase was the maximum allowed by the governor and Legislature as part of the new state budget. It’s the 5th year in a row that base tuition rose at least 5.5% at the four-year schools…”
UW-River Falls’ Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry said the 5.5% increase was not a big surprise.
“This is really what we’ve been anticipating for quite some time,” Fry said.
He points out that Gov. Scott Walker referenced the hikes months ago and that 5.5% is the same increase the UW implemented the last two academic years. He said reductions in state and federal support put tuition on the top of the list of funding sources. It is followed by 2) auxiliary, which includes such items as room and board, 3) state, and 4) federal.
UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen commented, “Our campus serves many students of modest means, and I am always concerned about the affordability of a UW-River Falls education.
“However, the 5.5% tuition increase will help us offset the large reduction in state support we will experience this year, although this tuition increase will make up for only about one-third of the cut in state support. In the end, affordability means very little if we cannot provide our students with a high quality experience, and that requires resources.”
Funding cuts drive increases
The UW System release says Wisconsin residents will see increases about of about $300 per year at smaller four-year campuses like Green Bay, Stevens Point, and Parkside in Kenosha. The big schools at Madison and Milwaukee will charge an additional $400.
Out-of-state students will pay more.
After being exempt from an increase a year ago, the system’s 13 two-year-colleges will implement the same 5.5% hike, the first in five years at the schools geared toward college freshmen and sophomores.
In recommending the tuition rates, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly noted that in times of continued economic turbulence, any tuition increase is tough to swallow.
“Again, this is a discussion about balancing the quality of education with the price students have to pay for that education. In the end, it’s a question about the value proposition we offer to our students and their families,” Reilly said.
He reiterated that the additional revenue generated by the tuition hike -- collectively about $37.5 million -- would offset about one third of the $125 million cut in state funding in 2011-12. Another $125 million deficit is expected in the year 2012-2013 budget.
Reilly said enrollment in UW System institutions is at an all-time high, and the need for educated citizens is expected to continue to grow in a dynamic global economy.
“As we present this annual operating budget, we are keeping our eye on the long-term goal of preserving broad access to a high-quality educational experience,” he said.
He added that while the state’s biennial budget provides significant new operational flexibilities to the university, chancellors, provosts and others will still need to make very tough choices about the allocation of diminishing resources on their campuses.
Reilly told the board that about two-thirds of UW System undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, and about half of those receive at least one outright grant or scholarship.
Campus leaders expressed many concerns about the impact of budget cuts.
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell told the regents that students are frustrated with their inability to get into the classes they need to graduate on time. “Unfortunately, this problem is only going to get worse,” Lovell said.
UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dick Telfer told the board that budget cuts will force universities to increase class sizes and cut back on high-impact practices such as undergraduate research, study-abroad opportunities, and tutoring. He also noted that while administrative leanness is encouraged, administrative functions are “…now stripped, so we have trouble functioning, doing some of the things we need to do.”
Regents John Drew, Tom Loftus, Ed Manydeeds, and Betty Womack voted against the operating budget.
While noting that he had supported tuition hikes in previous years, Drew called this increase “an attack on middle-class Wisconsin citizens.” He said a tuition hike at this time sends the wrong signal.
Echoing Drew’s concerns, Regent Manydeeds said he didn’t think it was fair to ask citizens who are already hurting to pay more to educate their children.
Regent Troy Sherven, a non-traditional student from UW-Stout who attended his first board meeting the day of the vote said students feel like they are bearing the financial burden of the university’s budget cuts. He urged UW System leaders to clearly communicate that increased tuition revenues offset just a fraction of the reduced state funding.
In a news release dated July 11, Reilly acknowledged that UW wasn’t the only system dealing with state budget cuts and other revenue reductions, but he said the university successfully avoided the double-digit increases that elsewhere, have placed a heavier burden on students and their families.
The news releases say the UW System has 182,000 students and that the tuition increase is needed to preserve quality, help students graduate on time, and support core campus functions.
The earlier news release says that according to the College Board website (external link included), most public-university students receive significant aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and federal tax benefits. These aids reduce the “net cost” of college. While published tuition rates continue to increase, the average net price for full-time students has declined over the past five years, after adjusting for inflation.