Regents vote to increase 2018 tuition

Ti Windisch

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents voted to raise tuition in the 2018-19 school year and to keep it frozen for the 2017-18 school year.
According to a press release, the Board of Regents unanimously voted to increase tuition based on the annual consumer price index starting in 2018-19, meaning the raise will be “no more than the cost of living.”
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said the vote does not guarantee tuition will be raised because the Wisconsin State Legislature controls the budget that UW schools operate within.
“While the Board of Regents can set tuition, per se, the legislature has the right to fund the system,” Leavitt said. “There’s some give and take here.”
Leavitt said this was the first Board of Regents vote on tuition since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2010.
“The governor simply made the decision to freeze tuition, and he and the legislature have the power of the purse, that they can enforce that decision through their allocation of the system,” Leavitt said. “Things are changing for the better. One, I think that the Board of Regents is recognizing the governor’s desire to keep tuition frozen in the first year of the next biennium.”
According to the agenda from the Oct. 7 Board of Regents meeting, tuition is just one of five aspects of college affordability. The others include the time it takes a student to get a degree, support from the state monetarily, financial aid and operating efficiencies. The agenda cited the time it takes to earn a degree as the most important of the five aspects.
“The sooner students complete school and enter the workforce, the sooner they are earning salaries,” the agenda read. “The UW System is currently in the fourth year of a resident undergraduate tuition freeze … that freeze, combined with flat financial aid and cuts in state funding, are producing increased class size and fewer classes, as well as potential harm to the student experience.”
Junior Megan Mohr said she won’t be in school by the time the raise would take effect, but she understands the need for the cost of tuition to shift as time passes.
“By that time I’ll be gone,” Mohr said. “I don’t know, obviously inflation is a thing and we have to keep up with it to keep up with the standards of the rest of the universities and the system.”
According to Leavitt, the timing of the vote was important because of how early this decision was made.
“What the Regents have done is voted on it now so that there is plenty of time for families to react to this, it’s well over a year off,” Leavitt said. “At the same time, there’s plenty of time for the legislature to look at what the decision of the regents were in their deliberations.”
Leavitt said the vote is important because it shows the Board of Regents attempting to take back the power of setting tuition throughout the UW System.
“I think the level of transparency has increased dramatically as a result of this,” Leavitt said. “This is a significant achievement in the sense that the Board of Regents is reasserting its authority to set tuition through the system.”
According to Leavitt, a raise in tuition is one way the Board of Regents is trying to prevent a reduction in the quality of education provided by UW schools.
“I think that the governor…was certainly interested in holding down the total cost of education,” Leavitt said. “How he did it can be debated, but I think that’s a noble outcome. Having said that, it’s getting to the point now if you hold tuition frozen, and there is a reduction in the state subsidy, that starts to impact quality. So there was a lot of discussion in the Board of Regents meeting about trying to maintain quality.”
Mohr said the relatively low cost of UWO was a major factor in her decision to attend the university.
“I looked at a bunch of different schools before I chose to come to Oshkosh,” Mohr said. “I chose Oshkosh because it was the best for me financially.”
Mohr said universities farther south and generally out of Wisconsin were much more expensive than UWO and other UW schools.
“It’s really reasonable here if you compare it to a lot of other schools, especially outside of the state,” Mohr said.
Senior Anna Burrows said she believes the governor made it necessary for the regents to request a tuition raise.
“I feel like Scott Walker put them in this position by withdrawing money from the System,” Burrows said.
According to Leavitt, the Board of Regents requesting both more state subsidy allocation and increased tuition is the beginning of a dialogue between the UW System and the state government.
“We’ve laid all of our cards on the table, face up,” Leavitt said. “We’re ready to engage in a great conversation with the legislation and the governor’s office about how we can create additional economic prosperity in this state through higher education.”
Leavitt said the increase will likely be somewhere between one and three percent of what tuition is now, and that increase could make a difference in the quality of education UWO is able to offer.
“There’s 10,000 undergraduate students at this institution, let’s just say that’s a nice round number,” Leavitt said. “If you’re gleaning on an extra $192 per student, multiply that by 10,000 and you’re looking at 1.92 million. So for $2 million in extra revenue, that’s a lot of extra classroom instruction that we would be able to afford.”
Leavitt said the increased tuition money combined with additional state subsidy money will ensure the UW System continues to provide students with a quality education.
“It’s tuition—the combination of a very, very modest tuition increase tied to something tangible like the rate of inflation—with a modest increase in the state subsidy will definitely help the UW maintain its high level of quality,” Leavitt said.
Burrows said she believes the entire system needs to be changed, with both state and federal governments contributing more money to education.
“I think the University is between a rock and a hard place,” Burrows said.
According to Leavitt, increased funding for the UW System will help not just public universities, but the entire state of Wisconsin.
“We’re ready to go,” Leavitt said. “The kind of support that we’re seeking from the state and the governor will greatly enhance our ability to propel the state forward.”