College Financing and Today's Teens

As Tuition Skyrockets, Many Kids and Families Face Tough Choices

by Adaeze Okoli, age 16

As a junior in high school, I have many decisions to make regarding college. A major factor in my decision will be tuition costs. I am not alone. Many families are finding that tuition is becoming more expensive.

This fall, students attending the University of Wisconsin System’s various four-year institutions face tuition increases. These increases average about five and a half percent. The increases range from $295 at Green Bay, Parkside, River Falls, Stevens Point, and Superior to $638 at Madison.


These tuition increases reflect growing budgets. The proposed UW System budget is roughly five and a half billion dollars, up from about four and three quarter billion dollars. Budgets are growing because enrollment is rapidly increasing. Last year, the UW system enrolled a record 180,000 students. At UW-Madison, 24,990 applications were received for the 2010-2011 school year. Twenty years ago, the number of applications at Madison was 14,193.

With such an enormous increase in students, additional provisions must be made. These include new dormitories, more professors, and more classes. But while more resources are necessary to maintain the UW campuses, the state of Wisconsin contributes less to the UW budget. Twenty years ago the state provided more than a third of the UW system’s budget. By this past school year that figured had dropped to just 18 percent.

Because of the University System’s reduction in state funding, a decision was made to alter a few of its components to maintain the successful operation of UW schools. Increased tuition helps raise additional revenue. To cut costs, all full-time UW employees are required to take eight days of unpaid leave.

According to UW System President Kevin Reilly, “In the face of major financial challenges, we have successfully avoided double-digit tuition increases, across-the-board enrollment caps and other drastic measures.”

This is true. Other states, like California, have had to make very tough decisions in order to keep their universities running. Last year students who attended University of California schools faced 32 percent tuition increases, and extreme budget cuts. Forcing many students to drop out.

This is what the UW system hopes to avoid. In fact, some of the budget is devoted to the Growth Agenda—a plan to increase the number of four-year degree holders in Wisconsin. This is especially important to our generation. A report recently released by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that in 2018, 63 percent of jobs in the U.S. economy will require some education beyond high school.

More and more Wisconsin families find that financial aid is necessary. Everyone concerned wants college to be accessible for everyone who wants to attend. The state budget includes $8.3 million dollars to subsidize tuition increases for families making less than $60,000.

In addition, the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant has received an additional $3.3 million dollars to provide grants for 1,800 students. Last year 7,400 eligible students were turned away because this program ran out of money. This year there will be even more students in search of grant aid and scholarships.

On a national level, the Pell Grant program, which provides tuition money to needy college students, faces its largest shortfall ever. President Obama pushed for a 13 percent increase in the Pell Grant program, but with more people applying, officials predict the program will cost much more than expected.

In today’s changing economy, education is still the key to success. And you can still do it without going broke. Here at the Simpson Street Free Press we talk and write often about MATC, now called Madison College. Completing introductory courses at community colleges is significantly less expensive than at a UW school.

It is also important to know about the various two-year UW campuses around Wisconsin. These UW schools are not raising tuition prices. Completing coursework at any of these two-year schools is a great option. These are excellent schools, conveniently close to home, and the costs are reasonable. Remember: avoid unnecessary debt when planning your education.Also remember, the State of Wisconsin has an Automatic Transfer Option. Good grades at an UW affiliated two-year school means that upon transfer, you will automatically be accepted to one of UW’s four-year schools. Utilizing this transfer option will reduce your costs. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it, good high school grades can result in scholarships, and scholarships also reduce your costs.


What does all this mean for kids our age? It means that while attending college is more important than ever, it is also more expensive.
It means that planning and saving for college is more important than ever.

[Sources: Associated Press; Badger Herald; Business Week; Capital Times; New York Times; USA Today; UW System; Wisconsin State Journal]

I had actually known about the tuition increases, but I never had all this detail behind it, but it's the sad thing.. Years ago things used to be that as time went on, prices would decrease from finding cheaper materials and methods of working, but not so with schooling, apparently.. – Spenser KMadison (2010-11-17 00:57)
Adeaze, thank you for this informative piece. There has been a fair amount of recent discussion about the influence the recent elections results may have on state funding for the UW system. There is a complex relationship between public universities and state financing. Even though I've spent quite some time as an undergraduate and graduate student at UW-Madison, all of the intricacies are still not clear to me. Perhaps some discussion about that relationship would make for an interesting follow-up, as a UW student myself, I could certainly benefit from knowing more about it. – Andrea L. GilmoreMadison, WI (2010-11-20 15:48)
An inleltigent answer - no BS - which makes a pleasant change – ZyahAn inleltigent answer - no BS - which makes a pleasant change (2016-04-27 17:38)