Wisconsin Legislature Orders Tuition Freeze In UW System

But Students Will Pay More in Segregated Fees

by Masha Vodyanik, age 16

            Amid national discussion over interest rates on federal student loans, and the mounting problem of student loan debt, University of Wisconsin System passed a tuition freeze to take place this academic year. This means that for the 2013-14 year, costs of tuition will remain the same as the previous school year. The freeze will apply to in-state and out-of-state undergraduates along with graduate students. Therefore, the change will affect all UW System students. Lawmakers wrote the tuition freeze into the 2013-15 state budget that was passed by Governor Scott Walker.
            Over the last several years, tuition increased an average of 5.5 percent. In April, the system proposed a tuition hike of two percent, along with a $181 million budget increase. However, shortly after the proposal, a state audit revealed the UW System was sitting on a $648 million reserve. Upon learning this, the legislature denied the UW System their tuition increase.
            Initially, the UW System suggested that four graduate schools increase their tuition, but the idea was later scrapped to avoid any unfair changes before all tuition policies for next year were discussed.
            Due to the tuition freeze, costs of fees and room and board will be increased among the 13 universities. Segregated fees, which pay for extra campus and student amenities, such as student unions and on-campus gyms, will be increased between 0.5 percent and 11 percent. UW-Madison will have an increase of 2.3 percent, or $25, and UW-Milwaukee will have the highest increase of 11 percent, or $119 in segregated fees. Room and board fees will increase an average of 3 percent throughout the schools, with UW-Madison at a 3.3 percent, or $263 increase. In contrast, UW-La-Crosse will have a decrease of $50.
            Although the full financial impact of the tuition freeze is unknown, outgoing 2012-13 interim Chancellor David Ward predicted the freeze will contribute to a long-standing problem of UW competing with universities who can pay top dollar to top-level professors.  The UW System is predicting a revenue decrease of $42 million as a result of the tuition freeze in the next two years. An additional  $47 million will be used for new employee benefits and salaries. While that can be covered by the recently revealed cash reserve, new long-term revenues will be necessary to bridge this gap in future.

[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]