Following large cuts in state aid to the University of Wisconsin System, the Board of Regents decided Thursday that student tuition will increase in state colleges for the sixth year in a row.
The Board of Regents met in Milwaukee on Thursday to approve UW System President Kevin Reilly’s recommended 5.5 percent tuition hike, the maximum increase allowed by state law and an increase that he called “modest and predictable.” The tuition hike would raise $110 million in tuition revenue, offsetting approximately one-third of the cuts the UW System took in state aid.
The UW System took a $250 million cut in that budget as well as an additional $66 million cut in February of 2012.
Reilly’s tuition increase proposal was approved by a 17-1 vote. The only regent who voted against the increase was Regent John Drew, who said he would not vote for any tuition increase without an increase in financial aid for students in financial need.
Despite being “painfully aware” of financial hardships the increase may bring, Reilly said it would help students graduate quicker by ensuring classes that are necessary for graduation would remain accessible, saving students an extra semester or year of college.
“This funding will help more students get the classes they need to graduate on time in a safe, productive learning environment,” Reilly said. “Through this balanced approach, we can maintain UW’s historic commitments to affordability and academic excellence.”
UW-Madison’s fees would increase by $32, and tuition would rise by $681. Reilly said UW-Madison’s tuition increase would be at least $649 below the midpoint of peer institutions.
Nonresident undergraduates and resident graduates will see an increase in tuition of the same dollar amount as resident undergraduates, not a 5.5 percent increase on their current rates, according to Reilly.
Regent Gerald Whitburn proposed an amendment to Reilly’s recommended increase, changing the percentage from 5.5 percent to 4 percent with the difference to be made up for with further cuts to the system’s budget.
“We know that our system-wide tuition is light and working on this is entirely appropriate, but our economic circumstance is not business as usual. I think the bite is too great,” Whitburn said.
Whitburn’s amendment failed 3-15.
Although the amendment was voted down, several regents took the opportunity to discuss alternative measures to reducing and ultimately eliminating tuition hikes. Student Regent Katherine Pointer, who voted against Whitburn’s amendment, was among those who were thankful to Whitburn for initiating the discussion.
“I’m comfortable voting for this [tuition] increase because I know how necessary it is. If we do anything else, this will cut into the muscle of the system and the education that these students receive,” Pointer said. “I think it is important for us to look at other alternatives moving forward.”
The regents then voted to recommend a 5.5 percent funding increase to the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant for each year of the state’s next biennium to go along with tuition, a link that had been suspended in the state’s last budget.