EDITORIAL: Free tuition plan deserves, needs more discussion
Free University of Wisconsin tuition? Quite a deal! On Tuesday, a state panel recommended that concept, which is tied to a commitment by recipients: They must live and work in Wisconsin -- five years for those who earn associate's degree and 10 f...
Free University of Wisconsin tuition? Quite a deal!
On Tuesday, a state panel recommended that concept, which is tied to a commitment by recipients: They must live and work in Wisconsin -- five years for those who earn associate's degree and 10 for those who complete their bachelor's.
It's all about plugging the brain drain. College graduates -- young, impulsive and saddled with student loans -- tend to follow the money trail. And for several years, it has largely been a one-way road exiting Wisconsin. That's a problem because Wisconsin taxpayers are paying a large share of UW costs only to see their investment fade into distant states.
But details of the plan need additional review. In particular, attention should be paid to suggestions the program be funded by borrowing money through the municipal bond market. Proponents say the money will be repaid as graduates stay in Wisconsin and pay higher taxes by virtue of their higher earning potential.
That's one way to look at it. But it raises several valid issues.
- Why should taxpayers not only fund tuition, but tuition plus interest? That just increases the tax burden.
- The additional UW graduates who remain in Wisconsin might earn more and pay higher taxes -- high enough to make the bond payment. Or they might not. Nobody will ever know for sure.
- There's the "chicken or egg" argument. Proponents say that having college grads remain in Wisconsin will create a labor pool that will attract new companies. Naysayers could argue the employers must be here first or we'll never retain college grads.
Still, the proposal deserves more consideration. Part of that should include incentives to attract new employers. That would help ensure a positive outcome. Once the details are worked out, this may prove to be a good deal.