A member of Gov. Scott Walker’s administration touted greater flexibility and the availability of new funding for the University of Wisconsin System, but did not voice support for setting a cap on tuition increases in a meeting with students on Monday.
Michael Brickman, Walker’s education policy adviser, spoke to students and said Walker’s budget includes an influx of $181 million to the UW System. However, he said he was not immediately supportive of a tuition cap that would limit the university to a certain percentage increase in tuition per year.
“[The state] can’t always keep up with increased cost and continue this quality of education for students,” he said.
Both Daniel Statter, chair of the Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs Committee, and Brickman agreed the new funding would be very useful to the university. Both said they hope to use the new funds to increase the availability of higher education to students.
However, Statter said he is hesitant to allow UW System to set its own tuition rates, as it has proposed to do so.
“It’s what we’ve seen,” Statter said, regarding previous tuition increases in recent years. “When there is not a legislative tuition cap, tuition will go up, as high as 15 percent.”
Brickman also took committee questions regarding a tuition cap and the state budget.
He said the state had looked at a hard tuition cap in the past, but this government mandate was not aligned with the new flexibility given to the university.
“[We want to] make sure that the system and campus have the flexibility they need to better serve the students,” he said.
Brickman instead pointed to ways of increasing efficiency within the system, such as the UW Flexible Degree plan, which allows retroactive credit for those adults returning to college with work experience.
He also highlighted the increased use of online learning as a way to drive down costs, as well as increasing the accessibility of higher education for those around the state.
“Efficiency is a buzzword that we hear often,” Statter said.
According to Statter, there is an agreement between ASM and Brickman that the new money for Rec Sports is helpful, but disagree on how that will directly affect tuition rates.
Brickman said the tuition cap is just one of the many ways to keep the institution accessible. He said the state will work directly with students, faculty and the Board of Regents to make sure that one way or another, families still have access to this institution.
Statter said a government mandate is necessary in tuition protection.
“Without a tuition cap mandated by the state, it is becoming less and less clear that it is [protected],” he said.