UW System regents approve 5.5 percent tuition hikeRates at the other four-year campuses would go up between $328 and $422 annually, while students at the two-year colleges will pay $247 more each year.
By: By Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Tuition in the University of Wisconsin System will rise by several hundred dollars next academic year, after the Board of Regents voted Thursday to accept the maximum 5.5 percent rate hike.
The increase applies to all 13 of the system's four-year colleges, as well as its 13 two-year campuses.
All students — in-state and out-of-state — who attend UW-Madison, the system's largest campus, will pay an extra $681 per year in tuition. That figure includes $250 from a previously approved surcharge earmarked for certain student programs and classroom support.
Rates at the other four-year campuses would go up between $328 and $422 annually, while students at the two-year colleges will pay $247 more each year.
State funding to the UW System was cut by $250 million over two years in the 2011-13 budget, and an additional budget lapse withdrew another $66 million in state support. The new tuition increases will restore about $110 million.
UW System President Kevin Reilly proposed the increase — the sixth straight year recommending the maximum increase — and said it would help compensate for the cuts in state aid.
After the vote passed, he told reporters he was concerned about the drop in state support, and would try to persuade Gov. Scott Walker to restore education funding.
"As we always do we'll make our case as strenuously as we can about the value for families and students all around the state of keeping the University of Wisconsin affordable," he said. Even with the tuition increases, he added, the UW schools remain a good value.
The tuition proposal passed by a vote of 17-1, the holdout being Regent John Drew, a United Auto Workers representative from Milwaukee. He acknowledged the tuition increase was "modest" given the magnitude of state cuts, but said he was more concerned that students were being asked to bear the weight of Wisconsin's financial burdens.
"There's been a 35-year trend of decreasing state assistance to the UW System, and it is wrong to make that up with tuition increases," he said. "The state has to make a decision whether we value our public institutions and whether the state is willing to provide the financial support that's needed."
During debate, Regent Gerald Whitburn suggested a minor compromise — raising tuition by 4 percent instead of 5.5 percent. The change would have amounted to savings of about $60 to $100 per year for most students.
"I think this hike is too great," he said.
However, others said the 5.5 percent level was the minimum needed to preserve student services and class offerings, and Whitburn's amendment was rejected, 15-3.
"Unless you're going to ask students to live with potentially larger class sizes and taking longer to graduate, I think a 5.5 percent increase is the only responsible alternative," Regent Charles Pruitt said.
Michael Raspanti, a 22-year-old senior at UW-Milwaukee, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the regents' vote. While some people think an increase of a few hundred dollars per year isn't much, Raspanti said it's a big deal to poorer students.
"What some people would have to do is take out loans," the history major said. "Do you really want all those people taking out loans and then struggling to pay it back for all those years?"
The regents also unanimously approved a resolution expanding a provision that helps lower-income students.
The Wisconsin Higher Education Grant is the state's primary need-based financial aid program. The regents agreed to restore funding for the program that wasn't included in the 2011-13 budget, and to also include more funding in the 2013-15 budget to account for this year's tuition hike.