UW-System tuition freeze continues

Jack Tierney, Editor in Chief

The seventh year of tuition freeze continues across the UW System into 2019-20 under Gov. Tony Evers’ executive budget, but officials say the budget is not enough to fix an inflation deficit.

The tuition freeze was introduced by Republican legislators after learning the UW System had a reserve of $648 million in 2013. $414 million is said to have come from tuition.

The tuition freeze has allowed prices at UW campuses to remain financially competitive among universities in surrounding states.

In 2018, tuition went up 8.3% in Minnesota, 18.3% in Michigan, 22.2% in Illinois and 16.4% in Iowa, UW System Vice President for Finance Sean Nelson said.

Caucus member Sen. Howard Marklein said the freeze allowed students at UW-Platteville and other comprehensive campuses to save $7,388 last year and said UW Madison students saved nearly $10,000.

The tuition freeze has had negative effects on the UW Oshkosh campus, however.

At UWO, inflation debt has resulted in department cuts, which have led to staff cuts, professors teaching more courses and class sizes increasing.

Republicans in the Joint Committee on Finance gave the UW System $57.7 million in taxpayer money for the next two academic years — half of what Evers wanted.

A quarter of that money is reserved for the system’s standard budget adjustments or debt services.

Republican legislator said the UW System did not need the amount of money System officials were asking for and rewrote their own plan.

The plan was approved and disapproved 12-4 across party lines. Evers used some of his “Frankenstein veto” powers to adjust the budget, but signed it saying he’ll take what he can get.

UW System President Ray Cross said he felt like he was “kicked in the shins” after hearing about the budget amount and said “the legislatures missed an opportunity to meet future needs of this state.”

Needs such as filling professional positions in teaching, engineering, agriculture, information technology and nursing.

Evers wanted to provide the UW System with $50.4 million in financial support to make up for revenue lost from the tuition freeze.

Evers also wanted to spend $45 million of taxpayer money to finance an initiative that would help students attain their degrees in a shorter amount of time, saying this initiative could keep more Wisconsin students. The $45 million had other plans as well.

A remaining $45 million of the Republican approved budgets is being held by legislatures.

If a UW campus or access college wanted a portion of the money for any reason, they would have to make their case to the budget committee who would decide if their plans were adequate.

Republican Sen. of Saukville Duey Stroebel said he thinks legislators are doing their jobs as gatekeepers of that money.

“We’ve struck a good balance here,” Stroebel said, about the agreement Democrats and Republicans came to.