With the Board of Regents preparing to set their biennial budget in place, representatives of the University of Wisconsin System student population expressed their priorities regarding the budget to the Board of Regents Thursday.
As the board prepares to put together the budget which could determine a change in tuition rates, student representatives from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison said their top priorities for the budget are an increase in pay and improved recruitment and retention of faculty strictly from general purpose revenue dollars.
UW-Eau Claire Student Senate President Ray French said the retention of good faculty is important to students’ education.
“Our students’ success is only as strong as our faculty and staff,” French said. “I know that my relationships with some of my professors have made me a stronger person.”
The students said they also want to see an increase in funding for the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant program, the Advanced Opportunity Program and the Lawton Undergraduate Retention Grant program, which offer aid to students throughout the UW System.
Students added they would like to see a Veterans Tuition Remission Program funded completely through GPR dollars. According to UW System spokesperson Dave Giroux, this is a government program that provides an education to veterans at no cost to them.
Giroux said the program receives $9 million a year, which is not nearly enough to cover the cost of the veterans’ educations, and the cost of the program has fallen onto the higher education institutions.
French said students all over the UW System are in full support of the program, but the state needs to start funding it.
“We see its benefit and we appreciate what the Legislature did to create this program,” French said. “But we understand now that it needs to just be a state-subsidized program, not a state funded program. When the state doesn’t support the program in full, the UW schools are eating those costs and ultimately our educational programs suffer because of that.”
The students also mentioned wanting to see a freeze in tuition for all two- and four-year schools, though some regents said this may not be a possibility.
“It will not be an easy biennial budget,” Regent Danae Davis said. “I can’t possibly tell you that I see a freeze (on tuition) anytime soon in our future.”
The regents do have a plan to ease the financial burden on students by increasing financial aid, UW System President Kevin Reilly said Thursday. The UW System will soon launch a statewide campaign to increase privately funded financial aid by $6 million, he said.
The fundraising campaign, which Reilly said is modeled after the United Way, would double the amount of need-based financial aid granted to students each year throughout the UW System from $6 million to $12 million.
The Regents intend to set up a portal on the UW System website to help raise funds.