We can’t help but feel sorry for UW budgeters these days. For over two months, it seems as though the status of the UW System budget has changed by the day. First the governor proposed a $51 million cut. Then the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee increased his cuts to about $60 million. The state Assembly did even worse, taking the Joint Finance Committee’s cuts and increasing them to $108 million.
The Senate (fortunately) did the opposite Tuesday and restored all but $20 million of UW’s cuts. The Senate’s proposal should give UW enough money to maintain a world-class higher education system, UW officials said.
Unfortunately, in their zeal to save UW, the Senate neglected to address the dangerous in-state tuition caps proposed by the governor and Joint Finance Committee. Pandering to current students and high school parents alike, in recent years state politicians have latched onto in-state tuition caps as a way to keep UW tuition low. But protecting the second-lowest in-state tuition in the Big Ten has come at the cost of regent flexibility in the midst of the state’s financial crisis, as well as decreased accessibility for out-of-state students.
The battle over UW’s budget is far from over. Both the Assembly and Senate must pass identical budgets, which will then undergo the scrutiny of McCallum’s veto pen. This is not a fun process: Tuition hikes and state cuts are unpleasant for everyone involved. Nevertheless, given the state and university’s budget situation, both are necessary if a UW degree is to maintain its current high value.