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Opinion

Public education funded in part by taxes

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November 8, 2007

So, who pays for a college education? Most college students would probably answer this question, “I do!”  Or “My parents and I do!” Or, if they’re lucky, “My rich relatives give me a free ride.” And they would be partly right. Tuition and fees cover a good part of the costs of your getting the degree that will—we all hope—lead you to a good job and a secure future. Or maybe to fulfilling your wildest dreams.

But another good portion of the cost of your education comes from taxpayers. You’ve probably noticed that private colleges charge more than public ones. That’s because public colleges and universities are partly paid for by state taxpayers. A small part of the taxes that are taken out of your paycheck go to support UW-River Falls.

Many people believe that their taxes should be as low as possible, and that’s a major factor in how they vote. You might even have voted for a low-tax candidate yourself, thinking about your small paycheck and how nice it would be if it were bigger.

If you read the Student Voice, you’ve probably seen articles about the long stretch between July and late October when the Wisconsin legislature couldn’t agree on a budget for the state—let alone for the UW-System. This occurred because one side of the legislature was dominated by legislators who believe strongly in lower taxes – and not so strongly in the importance of higher education and other public services.

The last several budgets had already reduced support for higher education, and they wanted to see another big cut in the budget for the University system. One result could have been that the badly-needed physical education facility, which has been waiting for planning funds through several budget cycles, would have been put on hold again for at least two more years.

I think that it’s a good thing that only limited cuts were made, and the new physical education facility is still on track. Professors and other staff can be hired to fill vacant positions. Library and technology facilities can continue to be improved. Upkeep and maintenance of buildings—as well as our efforts to become a sustainable campus—can continue.

But most important is that the legislature recognized that Wisconsin needs strong colleges and universities that produce well-educated, highly skilled graduates ready to strengthen our state. A majority of legislators showed that they understood that when the state pays part of what it costs to provide your education, they are not just helping you; they are helping Wisconsin to have a brighter future.

Mary Manke is associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies and is in her ninth year in that position. She coordinated accreditation for Educator Preparation in 2003 and is now beginning to prepare for the 2010 visit. She teaches in the Shared Inquiry Master's Program.