Chancellor advocates for reciprocity legislation
November 1, 2023
Chancellor Maria Gallo, and staff from other UW universities, testified before the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue in support of a bill that will help UW System schools retain some of the reciprocity dollars that their Minnesota students pay.
Students who are Minnesota residents pay more in tuition than students who are Wisconsin residents. The way it is currently, some of that reciprocity money goes back to Minnesota, and the rest goes into the Wisconsin state general fund. “We lost over $4.3 million in earned revenue because of the current, outdated reciprocity mechanism,” Chancellor Gallo said.
The state can then do what it wants with the money, and it does not have to be used for higher education. “For a couple of years we’ve been making a very concerted effort, with the support of some legislators, to try and get that mechanism changed,” said Beth Schommer, the Chief of Staff in the Chancellor’s Office.
“The bills that have been introduced both last session and this session are oriented at accomplishing two things,” Schommer said. “One would be to give the UW System direct negotiating authority over this agreement so that they can manage the arrangement [and] manage how the money is handled. Then, the campus that educates the Minnesota student… would retain the full amount of tuition that the student pays.”
The bill still has several steps to go through before it can go into effect. Schommer said, “It’s had public hearings in both the Assembly and the Senate. It needs to finish going through its legislative action, which means it has to get onto the floor of both the Senate and the Assembly. It has to go to the Joint Committee on Finance because it’s revenue-related. Then, once it passes through all of the state legislature, it goes to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.”
If it was able to retain reciprocity dollars, UWRF would be able to invest the money on campus. Schommer said, “We have our new Science and Technology Innovation Center being built. In that facility we are going to include a university and business collaboration center with more direct outreach to the business community, allowing businesses to interact with our students for internships, research projects, that kind of thing. A facility like that would need some funding to help make it operational, so that would be one possible way we would spend it.”
A UWRF student, Mayala Keita, provided a written testimony for the hearing as well. In it, she said, “I believe that all students, regardless of where they are from, would benefit from UW-River Falls being able to retain the extra tuition that I and other Minnesota students pay. The university needs that revenue to continue to make available things like… certification courses. They could also expand the support provided by the great UWRF Career Services office.”
Currently, almost half of the students at UWRF are Minnesota residents and are paying reciprocity money. “This is revenue that could have been reinvested in UWRF, meeting student demands and filling regional employer needs,” Gallo said.