A tuition surcharge for an undergraduate initiative allows University of Wisconsin to provide services that state and other funding cuts would have otherwise eliminated.
Nancy Westphal-Johnson, senior associate dean for undergraduate education and academic administration in the College of Letters and Science, said Madison Initiative for Undergraduates was primarily created to provide undergraduates with more access to “bottleneck” courses and to provide more faculty to teach these courses. MIU also provides financial aid, Westphal-Johnson said.
Through funding from a supplemental tuition charge, MIU funds grants and financial aid. It has added $40 million annually to UW’s budget to support undergraduate experiences, according to a UW statement.
Since 2009, MIU has allocated $50.9 million in need-based grants and as of October 2013, it awarded $20.4 million in financial aid to 6,742 students, the statement said.
MIU was implemented in an extremely challenging budget time and when the freshman class was larger than ever before, placing an even greater importance on this improvement in staff and classes, Westphal-Johnson said.
“With MIU, we are able to meet the course needs of students and provide them with a richer educational experience than ever before,” Westphal-Johnson said.
John Coleman, professor and political science department chair, said he has seen a number of good things come to his department due to MIU, including the ability to hire more faculty and a career adviser to work with students. It also allowed changes to be made to the political science major including a new track so students can take a more “quantitative approach” to their studies, he said.
“[MIU] gave us flexibility to do things that would have been difficult to do otherwise…with regards to advising, it gave us a service for students that I really think we are obligated to provide but hadn’t been able to before,” Coleman said.
Coleman said MIU has been mainly positive as it provides more faculty, so there can be more courses that are not as overloaded as they were prior to the installation of MIU.
Westphal-Johnson said MIU provides money for these improvements through a tuition surcharge, which increases the cost of students’ tuition, though she said MIU does its best to help those who are not be able to pay the additional amount.
“Certain students are not charged the surcharge given their family’s income and some other people are eligible for financial aid from the MIU based on their financial needs,” Westphal-Johnson said.
Coleman acknowledged that although the tuition increase is a bit of a drawback, MIU has done its best to make this increase the “least painful as possible” by implementing additional scholarships. Coleman said he believes the benefits of MIU outweigh this rise in tuition.
“But in terms of our department and programming and the kinds of things we have been able to offer students, I think it [MIU] has been a positive thing,” Coleman said.
Both Westphal-Johnson and Coleman said there are no real improvements that can be made with MIU.
“At this point we are really at the end of the program so it isn’t so much whether it can be improved,” Coleman said. “I think the question going forward will be how will it be maintained?”
Over time, faculty may leave for other institutions or the services provided by MIU may be somewhat outdated, Coleman said. The focus will now be on how to maintain the program and adjust it over time so that it is still serving the purpose it was set out to fulfill.
“The key will be for the university to find a way for MIU to continue to evolve,” Coleman said.