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Letter to the editor

United Falcons thankful for pursuit of new pay plan

February 21, 2013

United Falcons AFT thanks the UW-River Falls Student Senate for its efforts to improve the working conditions and lives of faculty, academic staff and their families. We would like to provide additional information and thoughts in response to the comments in the debate in the Senate and the editorial in the Voice.

The motion before the Senate did ask for a tuition increase in order to give the UWRF staff the first general raise in five years. The motion indicates the extremes that the University and system have been pushed to provide a competitive wage for its employees.

Tuition has risen continually over the last decades, yet the staff has not benefited, let alone been the cause of those increases. The tuition increases come from a calculated strategy over the last two decades on the part of state governments and some pressure groups to put the costs of education into the hands of the persons who benefit, you the students. The argument is that the state should not provide cheap/free higher education. Rather the student who will benefit from the education in the form of presumed higher wages ought to pay for it. In the 1960s and 70s, the state of Wisconsin paid over 60 percent of the cost of higher education.  Today that percentage is less than 20 percent. In the last biennium the legislature and the governor cut $300 million from the University budget. Tuition went up to cover parts of those cuts so the level and quality of education could continue including paying for utilities and other aspects of keeping the University open. Somehow those costs continue to rise without comment from the persons who expect you to pay more. According to a study from the American Council for Education, public funding for higher education in Wisconsin could reach zero by 2040. Nationally, funding for higher education in 2011 was down by 40.2 percent since 1980.

If you believe that the state benefits from your education, if your want tuition to stop rising and even go back down, then write your legislators and governor. The problem comes from their actions and the solution rests in their hands. At this time they still believe that you should pay the costs because evidently only you benefit. The faculty and staff know that Wisconsin does benefit from the education our students receive. We know from years of data and commentary that educated citizens sustain healthy democracies and healthy economies.

The faculty and staff thank you again for you support and commendation of our efforts to help you meet your goals and our joint efforts to sustain Wisconsin as a vibrant and great place to live and raise families.

Kurt Leichtle, Kate Maude, John Heppen and Matt Renault
Executive Committee, United Falcons AFT