Madison Initiative for Undergraduates
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The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates is differential-tuition funded program meant to encourage greater accessibility, better quality of student services and improved educational opportunities across departments for undergraduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The $40 million dollars raised from the tuition hike will be used to fund additional faculty, increase in "instructional innovations" and First-year Interest Groups and financial aid.
The Madison Initiative was formally announced by Chancellor Biddy Martin at a meeting of campus leaders from UW student organizations, the Associated Students of Madison and both campus newspapers on March 24, 2009.
Through a series of powerpoint slides, Martin explained that UW-Madison's tuition lagged for behind Big Ten peer institutions and did not match the value the university was or should be providing. Due to fewer funds from the state Legislature and a significant loss of faculty, Martin proposed a differential tuition increase to address gaps in the undergraduate program.
There she laid out a plan to increase tuition on a graduated four-year basis; In-state students would see their tuition increase by $250 a year, whereas out-of-state students would see it increase by $750 a year.
Of the $40 million raised from the charge, $20 would fund increases in financial aid (including a hold-harmless grant for those whose family makes less than $80,000). The UW Foundation would then match funds to the tune of $20 million to bolster the effort. The remaining funds would be split between faculty lines ($14,500,000), First-year Interest Groups ($1,000,000) and student services and instructional innovations ($5,100,000).
At the same time, a structure of student, faculty and staff oversight would be created to monitor the program and recommend funding proposals to Chancellor Martin.
Martin indicated at the meeting of student leaders that her goal was transparency; nearly every student or departmental group on campus would be solicited for feedback on the plan before the Initiative went for a final vote before the Board of Regents. In a spreadsheet sent to The Badger Herald, a member of administration (Martin, Berquam, etc.) lobbyied for the proposal at 140 events over the course of two months leading up to the final vote.
Response and approval
Reaction to the initiative was mixed. Those students attending several forums held by Martin expressed concern over the flexibility of the hold-harmless grant, the need to offset recent state budget cuts and raising tuition in an economic recession.
Many certainly did praise the plan for it's proactive attempt to maintain the university's level of educational prestige. The two campus Editorial Boards spoke in favor of the proposal and the Associated Students of Madison Student Council eventually voted in favor of the proposal, 18-1-2. However, the poll conducted by ASM noted a sharp divide in support: Out of 2087 respondents, approximately 41 percent opposed the plan, while only 20 percent supported it. A whopping 39.67 percent remained neutral. Another poll conducted on the Initiative saw a near split, with a slight plurality supporting the project.
Several critics of the plan believed it unduly burdened out-of-state students, who had an increase three times the size of in-state students. In addition, proponents of tuition freezes felt the Initiative was the wrong move for a student body already burdened by increased tuition.
On May 7, 2009, after hearing testimony for and against the plan, the UW Board of Regents approved the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates and it's accompanying oversight mechanisms.
The first round saw 29 proposals submitted for review. Of those, 19 related to student services, 8 regarded faculty hires and another two were returned for further revision. Of those proposals, eight were accepted by Martin and the Oversight Committee, which included a shared notes system for advisers, additional faculty hires for L&S and the business school, and other student services.
The second round, which set a deadline for submissions at Nov. 15, saw a massive increase in the number of submissions. In the end, 114 proposals were submitted for review to the MIU Oversight Committee and Student Oversight Board. The Oversight Board met in late January to review proposals during a two-day session. While the student board was tasked with primarily reviewing student services proposals, the body decided to review faculty proposals as well on the encouragement of Martin.
Eventually, the Student Oversight Board released their recommendations, ranked from one (best) to four (worst), placing proposals for increased advising in Res Halls, a Certificate of Written Communication and Business School-supported tax preparation as high recommendations. All other advising proposals were sent back, under the advice that those proposing advising changes try to craft a comprehensive proposal to deal with all major advising issues on the UW-Madison campus.
The Madison Initiative Oversight Committee then reviewed the proposals, using a different system from the student board to rank the proposals. All member rankings on proposals were averaged to produce a final ranking on a 1-4 scale. After several meetings, the MIU Oversight Committee presented their rankings to Biddy Martin on Feb. 16, 2010 at her Olin House residence. The committee recommended 31 proposals. While significantly smaller than the initial 114, the total cost of all proposals would exceed the $6.2 million left in initial rounds of funding. Martin subsequently asked for more input before making her final recommendations.
During a meeting of the MIU Oversight Committee, a herald reporter attempted to attend the meeting, which she initially assumed was open. She was told by members of the committee that it was closed to the public as it was an advisory body and was sent away. A day after a news article about the incident and an editorial by the Herald Editorial Board criticizing the decision were published, UW administration announced it would consider the body a governmental committee and open all subsequent meetings.