If it hasn’t already, the complaining is due to start any minute now. Always eager to create controversy, the usual crowd of rabble-rousers is certain to make a fuss over UW-Madison’s proposed tuition hike. As usual, it looks like it’ll be much ado about not much.
While on the surface the proposed 5.5 percent tuition hike (inflation adjusted) may seem unreasonable, a closer look reveals an entirely different story. After all, students next year will pay only 1.7 percent more (inflation adjusted) than students did two years ago — an increase hardly worth arguing over. Indeed, although the increase is always somewhat unpleasant, it is definitely not unexpected. UW didn’t receive nearly as much money as it would have liked in the state’s next biennieum budget and needs to make up the difference somehow. Frustrated with the high percentage of graduating students high tailing it out of Wisconsin, it is no wonder that working taxpayers’ representatives didn’t jump at the opportunity to donate more money to UW.
It is also important to keep in mind that the increase comes in the wake of a tuition freeze. The one-year freeze was put in place to placate a group of raucous protestors displeased with what they saw as a disturbing trend of tuition increase in the spring of 1999. However, in their frenzied rush to point fingers and assign blame, the protestors exaggerated what was actually taking place and demanded a tuition freeze. Otherwise occupied with their immature antics, they not only ignored the fact that tuition was only increasing by a mere $290 that year, but that a special grant made the increase hike a moot point for all financial aid recipients. More importantly, the protestors also conveniently overlooked the inevitable truth that a tuition freeze one year would mean a greater increase the next year, if only to account for inflation. The same irrational activists responsible for the extra tuition hike are the same ones complaining now.
Although a tuition increase definitely wasn’t first thing on anyone’s wish list, it certainly isn’t the worst thing students could receive. As tuition rises, so does the value of a UW degree. While UW still has a long way to go in terms of efficient spending, most of the extra funds will go into worthwhile programs and projects that will protect the university’s outstanding reputation. Who could honestly say they don?t want to see programs like Biostar, a cutting-edge biotech research institute, or the Madison Initiative, a multi-faced plan to increase campus diversity and improve faculty training, funded?
If UW-Madison students want to continue to enjoy the privilege of attending the 8th best public school in the nation, they need to be willing to make sure it keeps up with the competition. Paying a little bit more up-front right now will eventually mean getting a lot more back in the near future, in terms of better job opportunities and higher paychecks.
At the end of the day, a UW education is a bargain any way you look at it, tuition increase or not. Still the second cheapest school in the Big Ten, $3,290 is still an incredibly good deal.