Closing the University of Wisconsin’s Shared Governance Week of Action, a panel of representatives from the UW System and student government convened Thursday to address issues about tuition and fees, prompting debate about the future of the UW System.
Student Services Finance Committee Chair Ellie Bruecker and UW System Board of Regents Student Regent Katherine Pointer comprised the panel Thursday evening, fielding questions regarding the tuition and segregated fee increases.
The forum, which addressed student concerns regarding tuition and segregated fee increases, questioned the future of UW’s budget.
Pointer, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker and sits on the Board of Regents as the student representative, said she voted in favor of the increase in tuition because of an understanding of the repercussions the university would incur if tuition was not increased.
“We had a lack of revenue, a funding gap and we had to raise [tuition] somehow to keep our doors open, so we had to raise tuition,” Pointer said.
Pointer added although the university has not been receiving the state funding it “deserves” and must raise tuition for the time being, the board understands the university cannot continue relying on students to bridge the revenue gap.
Associated Students of Madison Shared Governance Chair Sam Seering said he agreed with Pointer on the point the university must find other avenues for funding, but he questioned when students will be seeing results of such innovative discussions.
“The system recognizes that funding continues to be an issue in the state,” Seering said. “There has been time to have this discussion to find new revenue sources. It looks like we are going to have to raise tuition again last year.”
ASM Nominations Board Chair Sean McNally added a vote against a tuition increase by the student regent would “send a message to the governor’s office that this kind of budget decrease is no longer acceptable,” while not changing the voting results.
According to Pointer, one regent did vote against the budget on principle, however she did so in order to assure consistency in the quality of her UW experience.
Pointer added, ultimately, the government in Wisconsin needs to understand the great economic benefits of investing in higher education.
“We need to be better advocates higher education to the governor and the Legislature and explain to them why it is so crucial for them to invest in higher education,” Pointer said.
Bruecker, who also explained her role in being the chair of SSFC, said her ultimate goal is to cater to UW students, emphasizing she is “responsible to students, not the governor, or the regents.”
However, despite her role with SSFC, Bruecker said she was in agreement with Pointer, emphasizing the importance of a positive relationship between the state and the university.
According to Bruecker, if UW is not given the state support, the university will lose the prestige, which will ultimately be an economic loss for Wisconsin.
“The UW system, especially Madison, brings a lot of people to the city,” Bruecker said. “The state government is not really paying us back for that. If UW is not given the state support, this university will lose the prestige of the state and that is a really important connection the state should make.”