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UWRF expecting tuition increase

May 5, 2011

Students attending UW-River Falls and all other UW-System schools could be expecting another tuition increase for the 2011-2012 academic year.

In the last three years, tuition at UWRF has been increased by 5.5 percent, said Chancellor Dean Van Galen.

An increase is projected to happen again pending a meeting to be held in July by the Board of Regents, said Provost Fernando Delgado.

This year, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a 5.5 percent tuition increase for all UW-System schools. The Board of Regents will therefore be using this number as a base number in determining the appropriate tuition increase at their summer meeting, said Budget Office Director Kristen Hendrickson.

“It could be something less or it could be something more,” she added.

Currently the tuition for a resident undergraduate student attending UWRF is $5,659 a semester. This increase would amount to an additional $311.

An increase in tuition is the result of less money received from the state. The decrease in state funding is not only impacting Wisconsin schools but universities across the nation, said Van Galen.

At present, about a third of the campus’ 86 million dollar budget comes from the state, a third from the students, a third from auxiliary, or revenue, said Delgado.

By contrast, in 1988, 47 percent of funding came from the state and student tuition contributed 19 percent to UWRF’s operating budget, according to a 2008 budget analysis of UWRF.

Next year, the state funding could be at 26 percent, or as low as 24 percent, said Delgado.

“The state keeps dropping the levels of support but the costs are steadily increasing,” said Delgado. “So, the burden is shifting to students.”

Student Senator Patrick Okan said he is concerned with the unknown factor of how much tuition will increase.

On average, a student that attends UWRF acquires $24,000 in debt, said Director of Financial Assistance Barbara Stinson.

Van Galen, Delgado and Hendrickson said that they are constantly worried about retaining enrollment, particularly because of the large number of low income and first generation students currently in attendance.

UWRF has the second highest number of low family income students in the UW-System and about half of the enrolled students are first-generation students, said Van Galen.

Student Senate President Tyler Halverson said that it is important for UWRF to retain the first generation students because they are important to the institution.

In 2009, the last time there was a tuition increase, the Board of Regents made an exception for the students whose family income was less than $60,000. These students were exempt from paying the increase. It has not yet been decided as to whether this exemption will continue for the next increase, said Van Galen.

The tuition increase will cover approximately half of the loss from state funding. Much of the remaining loss of funds will have to be made up internally, said Hendrickson.

Cuts will be made, including, decreasing the classes offered, funding for Information Technology, facilities management, and personnel, she added.

“We have to start asking what are we going to look like in the future,” said Hendrickson. “It has become a realization that we cannot financially support what we have been doing.”

In addition to the proposed 5.5 percent tuition increase, some UW schools, including UWRF, have an additional differential tuition cost, said Delgado.

“Of the schools that have a confirmed differential tuition, we are among the lowest,” said Delgado.

During this academic year, UWRF Student Senate and the Board of Regents passed the Falcon Promise. Within the Falcon Promise, there is an increased differential tuition fee, said Van Galen.

Currently, students pay an additional $72 in differential tuition. Over the next few years, this amount will increase until 2016, when students will be paying $160.

Segregated fees are another cost added to a UWRF student’s tuition. These fees are governed by the Student Senate, said Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman.

Halverson said that Student Senate is always looking for ways to save students money. Senate worked to lower the initial proposed cost for the Falcon Promise.

“We need to be a voice for the students and find ways to alleviate some of the financial stress,” he said.

Similar to how expenses continue to increase elsewhere, the annual segregated fees will continue to increase next year as well. This amount varies depending on whether or not they live on campus and where they might live on campus, said Okan.

Delgado said it is important for students to spend their time at UWRF as efficiently as possible.

“The longer you are here the greater disadvantage you put yourself at,” he said.

Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry said it is important for students to keep an eye on federal grants, like the Pell Grant, because there have been proposed cuts on them for the next federal fiscal year.

Hendrickson said the campus has to look for ways to raise money for scholarships because federal financial aid is out of the University’s control.

“It is an unfortunate fact of life,” she said. “the key thing is affordability and making sure that students can continue to come.”