While the state budget remains stuck between legislative houses, student leaders lobbied lawmakers this week to give additional funding to the UW System.
At a press conference at Memorial Union on Monday, leaders of United Council, the system-wide UW student government, spoke out against the recently passed Assembly budget, which did not include increases to account for increases in tuition or financial aid packages.
The students said they are concerned that the budget does not adequately fund financial aid.
Assembly Republican spokesman Steve Baas said he wasn’t surprised United Council wanted more higher education funding, but also said budget hikes are not logical.
“It is the responsibility of the members of United Council to beg for more money from taxpayers regardless of whether it flies in the face of logic,” he said. “Everyone had to share in the pain of a tight budget, naturally the university felt some of that.”
In conflict with the Assembly, Mike Browne, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, said the Senate is prioritizing the UW System.
“If we invest in the quality of programming and keeping it affordable then we have a trained workforce which will attract employers,” he said.
Matt Fargen, President of United Council, said the state may price students out of school if increases in tuition are not met with increases in financial aid.
“We are very disappointed that the Governor and the Assembly have not lived up to the statement that made a commitment to funding the programs that are vital to ensuring that the UW System is accessible and affordable to all of Wisconsin’s middle and working class families,” he said.
Financial aid has been a main concern among student representatives because of the increases in tuition and costs of living.
“There has been a zero percent increase in the UW Systems’ budget [adjusted for inflation] in the past 10 years despite increases in tuition and living expenses,” Jeff Pertl, Interim Chair of the Associated Students of Madison.
Democrats also have concerns about the amount of increase in tuition without a subsequent increase in financial aid. In response, Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, proposed legislation that supports financial aid and grants.
“This groundbreaking legislation would mandate that the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant and the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant would increase at the same rate as tuition increases over the course of a year,” Fargen said.
Republican Assembly leaders said they have been giving priority to other social services after giving UW budget increases in recent years.
“The university received extremely generous increases in the past few budgets, this time they just had to take a spot in line behind disabled children, the SAGE program and prescription drugs,” said Baas, the press secretary for Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha.
Despite the start of a new fiscal year on Sunday, McCallum has not yet signed the budget. Currently, the Senate and Assembly have passed their own versions and are in the process of working out the differences between the two budgets.