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Personalized license plates chosen for variety of reasons

April 19, 2007

Several students and faculty at UW-River Falls have personalized license plates, also known as vanity plates.

“I do have a UWRF license plate as does Susanne, my wife,” Chancellor Don Betz said. “We came from universities where they were quite prevalent. I was a bit surprised to see few here when we arrived in the summer of 2005, but now I spot a few more.”

Provost Charlie Hurt also has university license plates on his vehicle.

“Chancellor Betz chose 1 UWRF so, as the chief academic officer, I chose 2 UWRF, following his lead,” Hurt said.

The choice for personalized plates varies among users. The chancellor and provost said they selected UWRF plates because they wanted to support the school.

“I wanted to advertise the fact that I am affiliated with UWRF, a point I am very proud to advertise.” Hurt said. “I also wanted to contribute to the UWRF and this was an easy way to do so for me.”

Betz said he chose to display university plates for similar reasons.

“The plates are a way to promote UWRF and to display pride in the University, its history and its mission to serve the people and our students,” Betz said.

Wisconsin residents who decide to put university plates on their vehicles are benefiting the campus monetarily.

“Proceeds from the annual tax deductible University fee goes to support scholarship programs on each UW System campus. Each of the 13 campuses has an individual logo,” according to the Wisconsin

Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Web site. The Web site also states that any resident of Wisconsin can purchase UW System plates, even if the residents are not UW alumni.

However, some students choose personalized plates for less dignified purposes.

“It is kind of entertaining when you are on a long road trip to read personalized license plates,” senior Stacy Dekkers said.

Purchasing personalized license plates takes time and money. According to the WisDOT Web site, “a $15 personalized plate fee is required each year in addition to the regular annual registration fee.”

This means that every time a customer with personalized plates purchases registration tags, they have to pay an additional $15 for the plates. However, the site states that “personalized license plates for motorcycles or farm trucks, which are renewed biennially, cost an additional $15 for each year of registration ($30 total).”

In Minnesota, the cost of personalized plates includes a $100 application fee and an $8.50 filing fee, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/Dot) Web site. However, the $100 application fee is only a one-time fee, whereas in Wisconsin it is an annual $15 fee on top of the cost of registration tags.

In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, customers must go through an application process, which entails strict guidelines before getting personalized plates. In Minnesota, customers must select at least six characters and no more than seven characters. Also, at least one alphabetical letter must be included within those characters. In Wisconsin, customers must also select six to seven characters, but do not have to include alphabetical letters. Also, part of the application process in Wisconsin includes a section where customers must explain their reasoning behind the message they want on the license plate. Minnesota applications do not require an explanation.

According to the WisDOT Web site, “all personalized plate messages are reviewed by members of the Special Plates Unit. WisDOT may refuse to issue any combination of letters or numbers, or both, which the department determines may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or which may be misleading.” Therefore, swear words and other derogatory language is not permitted on personalized license plates.

Personalized plates are not limited to individual messages, but the plate itself can be specialized. In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, there are several types of personalized plates including military plates, prisoner of war plates, university plates, collector plates, fire fighter plates, emergency medical technician plates and several others.

Along with the $15 annual fee, the plate options include additional fees. Green Bay Packers plates cost an additional $25 per year for a tax-deductible donation to Lambeau Field. For a UW personalized plate, an additional $20 is donated to the particular school. Also, the University plate can be personalized for an additional $15 per year, which adds up to $50 every year for personalized university plates.

In Minnesota, university plates also do not require residents to be alumni of the individual school. For a University of Minnesota plate, there is a “$10 plate fee and a minimum contribution of $25 due with each registration renewal,” according to the Mn/DOT Web site. This means that an individual must annually donate a minimum of $25 to the particular school the personalized plate represents on top of the $10 flat fee.

Messages on personalized plates can range from names to elaborate sayings.

“I will never forget one license plate I saw when I was younger, it said ILBCNU,” Dekkers said. “My sisters and I thought it was so cool, because it’s saying ‘I’ll be seeing you’ with letters.”

For more information about personalized license plates, visit the Minnesota or Wisconsin Department of Transportation Web sites at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/ or http://www.dot.state.wi.us/.