UW System Regents Hike Tuition, Again

Congratulations parents. Your child has just finished another semester of college in the University of Wisconsin System. Your kid just sold this semester’s textbooks for beer money. Now you get to think about how to pay for next year’s tuition. That bill will be in the mail before you can say, “When did you become an English major?”

When you see the new tuition bill, you might want to speak to your child about the virtues of living off macaroni and cheese for a while. Students attending college in the UW System next year will see an average tuition increase of 5.5%. Members of the Board of Regents blamed the $60 million tuition increase on, you guessed it, budget cuts.

Here’s a word problem to ask your college student. When is a budget cut not a budget cut? When it involves the government. Despite the state’s continuing budget crisis, the state managed to give the UW System $39.5 million more than last year. The UW System total operating budget will grow from $4.75 billion in 2009-10 to $5.59 billion.

The UW Board of Regents likes 5.5%. Apparently they have determined this is the level of increase students and their parents will tolerate. This will be the fourth year in a row the UW System will raise tuition that much.

Here’s another word problem to ask your college kid. If Sammy Hagar couldn’t drive 55, how many students will not be able to pay 5.5%? The Regents believe that it is every kid… if they want to take on even larger government-run student loans.

The UW System has a “hold harmless” plan for those families that make less than $60,000 per year that allows the student to avoid paying the increase in tuition. The two-year colleges also will not be seeing a tuition increase.

However, the rest of the students will see tuition increases. At the Madison campus, students will see their tuition rise $638 per year. At the Green Bay campus, students will see an increase of $295.

There were a few protesters on hand as the Board of Regents made their decision to raise tuition. Perhaps the protesters should ask themselves if the Regents got the idea they can raise tuition from the students themselves.

Both student regents spoke in favor of the tuition increases. Student Regent Jessica Schwalenberg said in a statement, “If we get students here but cannot serve them well, it might keep them from coming back in the future, or change the view of education of a whole family, not just one person.”


Examples for the regents can be found at the campus level as well, perhaps most infamously at the UW-Milwaukee campus. Tuition there will increase by $379. Additionally, UW-Milwaukee students agreed to a $25 increase in the student segregated fee to build a new sports arena in a city already with too much event capacity.

The UW-Milwaukee men’s basketball team already has a home, the U.S. Cellular Arena. They also have an on-campus facility available, the Klotsche Center. Neither was good enough for the UW-Milwaukee administration, and they have decided to build a new arena on their campus on the East Side of Milwaukee. It will probably not sit well with the university’s neighbors who already resent the university’s impact upon their neighborhood, particularly as it pertains to parking, noise and crime. They have a point in this case that there really is no reason to build the arena in their backyard. UW-Milwaukee already has the facility and history in downtown Milwaukee. Why would a commuter campus that is already building other facilities around Milwaukee County need to have an arena on the current campus in a community with difficult traffic access and a lack of parking?

Students are given rights of shared governance of the UW System under state statute 36.09(5). The statute was enacted as part of the University of Wisconsin merger in 1974.

Student rights of influence over the system, and the ability to control student activity fees, have gradually expanded under decisions by the courts and the Board of Regents.

Had the students who celebrated the expansion of these rights ever imagined that the students would enthusiastically endorse increases in tuition? Probably not.  Today they might agree with those financing the  the new tuition increases: children should be seen and not heard.

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute