Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Ties to state key for UW’s future

One of the enduring legacies Chancellor John Wiley will
leave when he steps down in September is the increased non-state funding he has
procured for our university. Our endowment has skyrocketed; over the Wiley
years, we have joined an elite group of universities with endowments above $1

Our selectivity, and by extension, our status as an elite
university continues to rise. This year, the University of Wisconsin has again
experienced an increase in applications: The university has received 500 more
applications at this time than at the same time last year. As such, an even
smaller number of students will be admitted this year than last, and it may be
the university?s first year with an acceptance rate below 50 percent. Should
these trends continue, your UW degree may be worth more in a couple years than
it is now.

As the state Legislature continues to decrease its
investment in our university, and as private and non-state funds continue to
pour in, our university is becoming, as a Newsweek article puts it, ?publicly
owned, but privately financed.? UW, like the University of Michigan and the
University of California, is increasingly becoming a private university. But,
don?t let the increased selectivity and financial independence get to your
head. The financial partnership we have with our state, while growing
increasingly rocky, is essential to ensure the affordability of a UW education.


In the 2004-05 school year, the state accounted for 20
percent of the university?s budget. A decade before then, state funds accounted
for 29 percent of UW?s budget. Allow me to indulge the economist in me as I do
some forecasting. In another 10 years, it?s entirely possible that state funds
could account for only 10-15 percent of the university?s budget.

One of the larger issues our next chancellor faces will be
the same issue that frustrated Mr. Wiley?s time here: a Legislature growing
increasingly distant from the university.

Last year, as the Legislature stalled and our state was
embarrassed to be distinguished as the last state in the Union to pass a
budget, worried murmurs began to spread throughout Bascom Hall, and a strange
ambiguity characterized the financial aid of a number of students. Severing
ties with the Legislature might reduce the headaches associated with the
uncertainty that comes with state funding, and would save taxpayers millions.

Tuition has more than doubled at UW in the last 10 years in
the face of weakening state support. Further delinquency on the part of the
Legislature will ensure this trend continues. If such trends continue, and
students are destined to pick up a larger tab along with non-state sources, it
just may make sense to go private.

However, in order to offset the revenue from state funds
that would be lost with further steps toward privatization, the university
would have to turn to other sources. Federal grants for research are just that
? grants intended for research, and private funding is not meant to offset the
cost of education.

We do have a $1 billion endowment to tap into, but the most
likely source to see an increase would be in a student?s tuition. To replace
the 20 percent of our budget currently provided by the state, tuition would
need to be increased dramatically, further making Wisconsin?s poorest residents
less likely to matriculate here.

A popular source of need-based aid is the state. With UW
Provost Pat Farrell indicating his desire for substantially higher tuition
rates, our partnership with the state will be crucial to keep tuition low, or
to ensure there is adequate aid in the presence of the inevitable increases we
will see in coming years. A move toward privatization, then, would possibly
spell an end to an affordable college education at UW for Wisconsin residents.

UW?s next chancellor must have successes where Mr. Wiley did
not. He or she must engage the Legislature in a way that ensures Wisconsin?s
heritage of affordable education continues. An agreement could be reached for a
promise from the state to honor one of its most valuable investments. A promise
to provide 20 percent of UW-Madison?s budget, for instance, would be a powerful
tool in preserving the affordability of education here, and ensuring that
UW-Madison remains the state?s flagship university.

Statements like, ?UW-Madison has the second-lowest tuition
in the Big Ten,? shouldn?t be a cause for higher tuition. It should be a point
of pride. The university and the Legislature should make sure it stays that


Gerald Cox ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in economics.

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