MacIver News Service | May 16, 2016
[Madison, Wis...] Gov. Scott Walker will consider extending the tuition freeze that's been in place for the UW System since 2013 as part of the next state budget. Extending the freeze "makes a lot of sense," he said on Wisconsin talk radio this morning.
"There's no doubt that that is a primary focus," Gov. Walker said.
The freeze is now in its fourth year. Renewing the freeze as part of the 2017-2019 budget would extend it into a fifth and sixth year.
Monday marked the first time Gov. Walker has openly talked about extending the highly popular tuition freeze into the next budget.
Gov. Walker said tuition costs rose 118 percent - 8 percent per year - across the UW System in the decade before the tuition freeze took effect, but he said Democrats and UW faculty now making college affordability a major political issue were largely silent at the time.
"The bottom line is tuition has gone up far too much," Gov. Walker said.
UW budget cuts throughout the tenure of former Gov. Jim Doyle, including a $250 million cut in the 2003-2005 state budget, were simply passed along to students in the form of increased tuition, Gov. Walker said.
The freeze is about value for students and families and accountability to taxpayers, Gov. Walker said. Despite the tuition freeze, "the UW System budget is the biggest it has ever been," he said. The UW System's total budget is now approximately $6 billion per year.
Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature instituted the tuition freeze in 2013 when the legislature's "CPA caucus" uncovered nearly $1 billion in unreported assets within the UW System, a slush fund that UW accumulated while repeatedly raising tuition.
In addition to the tuition freeze, legislators also cut the UW System budget by $150 million in the 2013-2015 state budget after they discovered the slush fund.
Gov. Walker proposed and the legislature renewed the tuition freeze in the 2015-2017 budget when it was discovered a year later that the UW System still had a sizable balance in its slush fund.
Gov. Walker has previously cited that the tuition freeze has saved the average student in the UW System $6,000 so far.
There was no immediate reaction from the UW System administration or President Ray Cross to Gov. Walker's announcement.