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Letter to the editor

Students have ability to fight rising tuition costs

February 4, 2010

The number one issue students at UW Schools and across the nation have today is the inability to pay their own tuition. As the amount students pay for their education increases, the State of Wisconsin’s contributions to higher education continue to decrease. The systematic, historical, and on-going reasons for this change in our state and society cannot be explained quickly or easily.

Over recent decades, tuition has increased exponentially with no signs of changing. Between 1990 and 2009, tuition in the University of Wisconsin System has gone up about 400%. At this rate, in less than 20 years from now, each student at UW-Milwaukee will be paying about $30,000 a year in tuition. And students at the smaller two-year UW Colleges will be paying roughly $17,000 a year for their education.

Instead of admitting defeat and dropping out, the best way to stop exponential tuition increases is to act quickly and frequently. Two immediate lessons can be gathered from the reaction to the University of California System’s 30% tuition increase. First, state legislatures and university system boards can increase tuition to a remarkably high point in one session. And second, after thousands of students walked out and protested at their Universities and Regents’ meetings, it shows how unlikely protesting these actions after they happen will reverse them.

Would it be rational to do nothing in preventing such an increase in the University of Wisconsin’s tuition and then act in shock if or when it happens? The only way we can reverse the trend of exponential tuition increases in our state is for everyone to take action before it becomes an even larger issue.

There have been several individuals and groups who have been involved in freezing tuition in the past. United Council has addressed tuition increases for decades and can take credit for the somewhat low tuition increase this year (5.5%), but cannot stop the growing rate by themselves. Various student government leaders have also addressed the issue of tuition with little success on their own.

The solution is simple. The Wisconsin State Legislature must fund the public higher education system of Wisconsin to bring tuition to a plateau and start lowering the amount students pay for their degrees in the State of Wisconsin. The State Legislature sets the budget for the UW System, which then goes to the Board of Regents to implement in all University of Wisconsin schools. After this process, students make up the lack of funding with increasing tuition dollars.

Student leaders across the state, and specifically at UWMilwaukee, are leading a campaign with a simple goal: $100 a class. The goal cannot be reached overnight or within a year or two. We will need not only new state funding, but also an increase in accessibility to the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (WHEG) and more federal funding with the leadership of our local elected officials.

We are asking for all students in the University of Wisconsin System to join us in making each class $100. Go to www.100aclass.org. Go to your student government heads and tell them to take action on this issue. Contact your local Assemblyperson or State Senator to bring the issue of rising tuition to their attention and ask them to begin lowering the financial burden students carry.

Finally, take action on your own. As an individual or in an organization, bring attention to this issue by any means. Ideas for actions, from protests to petitions and phone calls to emails, are on the website www.100aclass.org. The more action taken on this issue, the better. The more people that are involved, the better. We will be having a student lobbying day in Madison outside the capitol building on Thursday April 15. Join us in the statewide effort to lower tuition.

In order for tuition to begin to decrease, everyone needs to do something about it. What do you have to lose?

Jay Burseth,
President of UW-Milwaukee
Student Association