Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


New budget could limit tuition hikes

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has proposed a 2007-2009 biennium budget that, if approved, would dramatically increase funding to the UW System over the next two years.

As part of the university's proposed Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, the regents are requesting a $144 million increase in their operating budget to "reinvest" in the state's public university system, and to limit tuition increases to approximately 2.5 percent per year.

"Our challenge is to convince the Legislature to reinvest in the UW System," Regent President David Walsh said.


Walsh said the university's budget is split between tax dollars and tuition and that this year's board is asking for more than it has in the past to accommodate its reinvestment plan.

According to the UW System, the increase in funding would allow more students to attend and graduate from UW schools, attract more college graduates to the state and improve the economy by increasing jobs.

"The governor is on board," Walsh said. "He's ready to make a reinvestment in education. He sees us as part of a great economic engine."

The growth of the university system is not everyone's top priority, however. The United Council of UW Students, a lobbying group for students systemwide, is disappointed with the regents' decision earlier this summer to hike tuition by 6.8 percent, making this the sixth year in a row tuition has increased.

Taylour Johnson, the council's organizing and communications director, said thousands of students have sent postcards, made phone calls and given presentations to the regents in an attempt to help them understand students' frustrations over rising tuition.

"[T]oo many students are being priced out of a higher education in Wisconsin," Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Badger Herald. "They can no longer afford another tuition increase."

And despite student efforts, Johnson said the regents have ignored their requests.

"Even though the board did not take students into consideration and turned their backs on Wisconsin families, United Council will continue to fight for a tuition freeze in the Legislature this spring," she added.

But according to Walsh, the regents designed their budget request with such concerns in mind. He added the board projects average tuition increases during the biennium at 2.5 percent a year — a number he said is the lowest in 25 years and under the rate of inflation.

Johnson said students would not give up their fight.

"Students are tired of watching decision-makers divest in higher education and balance the budget on the backs of students," she added. "Students will be a force at the ballot box so that legislators will understand they are a major voting constituency and tuition increases are not acceptable after years of double-digit increases."

Nonetheless, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle thanked the regents for their efforts to hold down tuition at UW schools.

Dan Leistikow, Doyle’s communications director, said Doyle is working on including the entire amount requested by the regents in next year's budget.

Mark Graul, campaign director for U.S. Rep. Mark Green, who is running against Doyle in this fall's gubernatorial election, said Green, a Republican, would consider approving such an increase but still has questions about exactly where some of the money in the budget would go.

Regardless, Graul said Wisconsin citizens should be dissatisfied with the drop in funding for the university under Doyle's four-year tenure.

"Jim Doyle increased state spending while decreasing UW spending," Graul said. "He says he's the 'Education Governor,' but we've seen huge decreases while he's been governor."

The Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, which the regents based their budget around, proposes two new initiatives: the Wisconsin Covenant and the Adult Student Initiative, both of which aim to help more Wisconsin students graduate from UW schools.

The Wisconsin Covenant, which Doyle introduced at the January 2006 State of the State address, would provide financial aid to high school students who pledge to take rigorous coursework and maintain certain academic standards.

According to Walsh, the Covenant will benefit Wisconsin by challenging the state's eighth graders to work hard for their future educational endeavors.

"This is a huge policy initiative by the governor," he added. "It's a long-term project and we expect huge results."

Anne Lupardus, Doyle's campaign deputy press secretary, said the governor is currently working with all of the state's public schools to secure legislative approval.

Meanwhile, the Adult Student Initiative would allow the UW System to better serve nontraditional students who want to receive a four-year degree from a UW school.

Walsh said nontraditional students include veterans and other individuals who wait a number of years to attend school.

The board will formally submit its budget request to Doyle on Sept. 15, and the governor will recommend his budget to the Legislature in early 2007.

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