University of Wisconsin System employees presented a grim picture of financial aid problems facing universities, at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday.
UW Financial Aid Director Susan Fischer said the financial aid program is no longer staying true to its mission of addressing a “family’s ability to pay” as the unpredictability of financial aid resources makes the process difficult.
According to Fischer, UW is still last among its Big Ten peers with regards to the amount of need-based grant money available for students.
However, in recent years, Fischer said UW has doubled need-based gift aid and expects to catch up with the University of Iowa, the second to last Big Ten School for financial aid. They hope to continue with that upward shift, Fischer added.
“Right now, it’s still kind of sad, but it used to be pathetic. So we’re improving,” Fischer said.
While UW System Interim Vice President Mark Nook said he sees the rises in student loans as a trend to be expected, Regent David Walsh credited the “decision makers” in the state with choking the students with tuition prices and loans.
“If [officials] care about the economy, they don’t want to dump in a bunch of debt that can’t build the next economy,” Walsh said. “We are not getting the funds from the decision makers, and that’s going to be a shame for the students and a shame for the state.”
Contrary to Walsh’s belief, Nook said the net price paid for college tuition is less today than it was five years ago due to grant aid and federal tax credits.
Over the past several years, the UW System has passed along generally modest tuition increases while retaining a reputation as one of the nation’s most respected and most efficient systems of higher education, Nook said.
However, according to Jane Hojan-Clark, UW-Milwaukee director of financial aid, the grants and financial aid resources available are not sufficient to meet demands of Milwaukee students.
“At the end of the day, there are not enough funds to meet the needs, and the needs are growing,” Hojan-Clark said.
In addition to addressing the needs of UW students, the Board of Regents also deliberated over the school system’s employees in light of the upcoming university personnel system renovations.
The establishment of a new UW System personnel system, required by the state Legislature, is intended to connect all UW employees under one unified system, said Al Crist, vice president of human resources and workforce diversity.
UW-Green Bay professor Clifford Abbott said the task forces working on developing the system are attempting to homogenize the structure and the current system is wrought with complexities.
“We are trying to find simplicity in this situation which sometimes results in winners and losers in terms of benefits,” Abbott said. “Every time we find a bright idea to meet one need, we find that it creates complexity on another end.”
According to Crist, the new system will be unveiled on July 1, 2013.