MacIver News Service | April 19, 2013
[Madison, Wisc...] Lawmakers in Madison are vowing major changes after it was revealed that the University of Wisconsin System has a balance of over $1 billion, according to a report released from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Friday.
Of that the $1 Billion, $648 million is considered surplus. The Fiscal Bureau explained the rest of the billion can't be considered surplus because there are specific rules and regulations on how that money can be spent.
The surplus has led many state officials to question why UW System President Kevin Reilly has asked for increased state funding in every budget and increased tuition on in-state students by 5.6 percent or more each year over the past decade.
"It is very concerning to learn the UW System has been running a surplus balance of this size, especially at a time when students, families, and lawmakers have continually heard from the UW System about the need for more money to offset 'devastating cuts'," Governor Scott Walker said in a statement.
A majority of the surplus comes from tuition revenue and totals more than $414 million.
Walker is calling for a tuition freeze for the next two years. Meanwhile Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), Chairman of the Colleges and Universities Committee, wants that freeze for four years. He's also calling for the firing of Reilly.
"More than 2/3 of this surplus was generated by unjustified tuition increases over the last three years. In other words, President Reilly and the Board of Regents knowingly jacked-up tuition by 16.5% on Wisconsin families over three years even though the funds weren't needed. These actions are nothing short of a betrayal of the public trust," Nass said.
Another member of that committee, Rep. Thomas Weatherston (R-Racine) stated "it's clear the UW System can afford a tuition freeze for students and a closer look at UW finances is warranted."
Since the 2002-2003 school year, the average UW System tuition for Wisconsin residents has increased from $3,041 to $6,723, an increase of 121.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Finance will begin holding executive hearings on the next state budget next week. The UW System is requesting a $36.8 million increase in funding in the next state budget.