Since 2012, the University of Wisconsin System has not increased tuition for in-state students. In a meeting with the board overseeing the UW System at the end of March, that changed. In-state students in all UW colleges will see an average 5% increase in tuition for the coming school years.
This increase results in in-state students at UW schools paying thousands of extra dollars in tuition per year. At UW-Madison, students can expect to pay a $9,646 increase. Student fees, meal plans and housing are also increasing by an average of $600 to $800 depending on the campus.
This average tuition increase does not account for program-based increases, which are primarily affecting STEM majors. These program-based increases are about $2,000 for science, technology, engineering or math majors.
These increases are hefty, not including the increase for out-of-state student tuition of about 2.5% to 5.6%. Both in-state and out-of-state students are now going to pay thousands of extra dollars in tuition, housing and meal plan costs for essentially the same level of education they were getting before.
The UW System Board argues that this change was necessary and that the tuition freeze was not sustainable with rising inflation and the need to pay professors more. The system says it relies primarily on tuition funds to pay for operation costs. But, this rationale is not sufficient enough to warrant the incredible increase in tuition.
For the past few years now, UW campuses have been accepting far too many students, especially out-of-state students. UW-Madison has over-admitted the freshman class for the past two years, creating serious space issues and causing UW-Madison to force students to live in triples or the Lowell Center.
By over-admitting students, class sizes have greatly increased, meaning students often get less personal or quality time connecting with professors or teaching assistants, something which can decrease their quality of education.
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Additionally, arranging students to live in rooms which used to house two roommates with three can decrease the quality of housing and overwork dining hall workers who are used to providing less food for fewer students.
UW-Madison and other UW schools chose to over admit students, something which can decrease the quality of education and housing on campus. So, why should students have to foot a higher bill for the same, if not decreased, quality of education and housing?
This increase also greatly affects students who struggle with financial security. Though programs like Bucky’s Tuition Promise and the expanded Bucky’s Pell Pathway can give students with a lack of financial security a pathway to paying for tuition, this is not an option for many students. Further, these programs are only in place at UW-Madison — not other UW schools. But, a plan is in place to create a similar program in the UW System next fall.
These programs are only available to students whose parents make less than $65,000 a year. For those who are just outside that threshold, the thousands of dollars extra for tuition can be incredibly damaging.
It’s true tuition debt in Wisconsin is lower in comparison to other states, but is an average federal loan debt of $20,000 – $25,000 really something to brag about? Students should be able to access a college education affordably, and with this increase the UW System should be more understanding and offer more scholarships to students who need them.
It’s understandable that out-of-state students should expect to pay a bit more in tuition than in-state students, but the cost differential between out of state and in-state tuition costs is exorbitant.
At UW-Madison in particular, in-state tuition is about $11,216 while out-of-state tuition is $40,612. Again, these tuition costs do not account for program-based tuition increases for STEM programs. Out-of-state STEM students could be paying upward of $42,000 in tuition at UW-Madison. For a school who is trying to attract engineering students, this is not too appealing.
For both in-state and out-of-state students, this tuition increase, though only 5%, could mean the difference between attending a UW school or going somewhere else, like a private university that offers more financial aid or a community college.
Granted, a lot of these additional funds will be going toward improving the quality of education and housing at UW schools, but those changes will take time, and there is a good chance the students paying these increases will not even experience the benefits or upgrades in their time at university.
Though these increases across the UW System may be necessary with inflation and to adequately support professors, UW schools should seriously consider providing students with more financial aid outlets. UW schools should also work to improve educational facilities for students in a timely manner so they are actually able to experience a better education for an increased tuition rate.
Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in journalism.