UW-System tuition freeze limits opportunities for UW schools
November 19, 2018
This fall began the sixth year with no change in the tuition costs of schools in the University of Wisconsin System. Gov. Scott Walker was the one to implement the tuition freeze back in 2013. The tuition freeze was first put into place after the Wisconsin Legislature CPA identified a “slush-fund” of over one billion dollars. This finding had shown that $414 million dollars in the “slush fund” was revenue received from tuition in the UW-System. Now the issue is, it costs a lot to run a university, and the cost goes up annually.
Walker enacted this policy after it became known that the UW- System had created a huge reserve, while still increasing its tuition annually. Though short term, tuitions freezes have their benefits, long term they are not sustainable. There is also little state aid to help universities, since those budgets have been cut along with the freeze.
Prior to the tuition freeze, the average UW-System tuition for Wisconsin residents had increased from a range of $3,041 to $6,723 each year, an increase that is rounded to 121.1 percent over a ten year period from the 2002-2003 academic year to the 2012-2013 academic year according to a study done by the Maciver Institute. Since the tuition freeze was put into place, students across the UW-System have not seen increases in tuition concerning costs for courses students enroll in and if they are a resident from the state of Wisconsin. The freeze has proven to be beneficial for students with payments for these categories.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the freeze resulted in layoffs, administrative merges, and fewer courses being offered at UW schools. With less classes available, students may face a longer path to graduation. The freeze also makes it hard for provide upgrades to technology and outdated buildings, competitive salary and benefits for faculty, as well as proper faculty training.
Cuts in state funding have continued, and UW universities will continue to struggle with this lack of funding.
“The state is providing $2.14 billion in general purpose revenue to the UW System in the current biennium, or about $175 million less than it did in the 2009-11 budget, or $624 million less in inflation-adjusted terms,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Now with Tony Evers in as the new governor of Wisconsin, the reality of the tuition freeze remaining in place over the next four years is likely. In an article from August 23rd in the Wisconsin State Journal, it was stated that Evers was the sole vote against the UW-system’s proposed operating budget for the 2019-2021 academic years. The reasoning behind his vote against, according to Evers himself, was “more state money is needed to make up for the budget’s tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates.”
Evers also stated the following in the same article with the Wisconsin State Journal on Aug. 23, “(Tuition) is going to be frozen. The governor’s said it. I’ve said it, so that’s going to happen. We need to fully fund that. I think it sends the wrong message to the Legislature that it’s up for debate.”
As of right now, the UW-System Board of Regents are waiting to vote upon the proposed operating budget for the UW-System’s 2019-2021 academic years due to waiting on the results on the midterm elections. With the elections concluded, the vote on whether the tuition freeze will or will not be kept in place.
Though the tuition freeze may sound like a dream come true to students working tirelessly to afford a semester, these feelings are not shared by the universities. Universities will be unable to excel with stagnant tuition without more state aid. With this freeze, UW schools cannot invest in updating modern technology needs for student learning experiences. Investing in the UW- System is investing in the future of the students who attend.