Here's the Brutal Impact Of Wisconsin's Education Cuts

April 18th 2015

Laura Donovan

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) slashed $300 million in state funding for University of Wisconsin (UW) schools. The cuts would extend until July 1, 2017. As a result of this move, the UW Board of Regents approved major increases to out-of-state tuition at the majority of the system's campuses. Even though Walker's proposal also included a tuition freeze through July 2017, the regents still have the authority to raise tuition for nonresidents and graduate students, according to the Press Gazette.

The UW schools raising tuition are Parkside, Platteville, La Crosse, Stevens Point, Stout, River Falls, and Whitewater. The Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Superior campuses won't be increasing tuition, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Perhaps the most dramatic increases will be at UW-Madison, where nonresidents tuition will increase $10,000 over the next four years. (The regents plan only called for a tuition increase for two years, however Chancellor Rebecca Blank's plan includes a four year increase.) Some graduate students also face a jump in tuition.

As state funding declines, the UW-Madison has to be resourceful in making education affordable for Wisconsin residents, says Chancellor Blank. According to a blog post written by Blank this means some cuts to programs along with the aforementioned tuition raise to make up for the $96 million dollar structural deficit the institution faces in the upcoming year. Blank wrote the following:

"[I]t must be noted that undergraduate tuition revenue and state tax dollars fund virtually our entire undergraduate program. The majority of those funds pay faculty and instructional staff salaries, and a significant portion is put toward student financial aid. Public universities are able to provide substantially lower in-state tuition because of state funding. As that revenue source declines, we must find other revenue sources or it will be difficult to maintain the same level of subsidy to our in-state students. I hope that all of us can work with our elected state leadership in the years ahead to figure out how we can continue to make UW-Madison affordable for all Wisconsin families."

Charles Pruitt, who serves as vice chairman of the education committee on the regents board, said the changes are a response to Walker's cuts, as well as an opportunity to compete in the U.S. market. The Big Ten median for out-of-state tuition is around $2,500 more than UW-Madison's out-of-state tuition, according to the Wisconsin Gazette.

But many do not agree with the cuts and the spike in tuition. Brian Weidy, an out-of-state junior studying journalism at UW-Madison, told ATTN: that increasing tuition should not be the solution to Walker's cuts.

"While I understand that there’s a $300 million budget cut to replace and that simply cutting professors and dialing back programs isn’t going to come up with that shortfall, putting the burden on out-of-state students is not the answer," Weidy told ATTN:. "By raising our tuition $3,000 a year, it puts an unfair tax on students who are already paying more than twice that of those in-state. One of the big reasons why people pick Wisconsin over say, Michigan, is the huge disparity in tuition between the two schools."

Weidy added that this could also result in UW-Madison becoming a less diverse campus. "Wisconsin will lose one of its great advantages -- being a 'value school' on the national level is rapidly disintegrating as the $10,000 additional dollars per year will make a noticeable impact on the already shaky diversity record of the school, both in terms of socioeconomics and racial diversity."

Associated Students of Madison Chair, Genevieve Carter, told the Badger Herald that the change is "ultimately making college less affordable and accessible to all students."

"If our administrators are going to place this increased burden on students, they need to engage directly with the students who will be paying more soon enough for students to determine whether Wisconsin is still a reasonable financial option for them and their families," Carter continued.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at UW-Madison, also came out against the cuts to higher education, and the subsequent tuition raise:

One prospective out-of-state student noted the irony of exploring the UW-Madison at the time tuition increases were announced:

She later confirmed to ATTN: via Twitter that she would not be attending UW-Madison, citing the cuts as a reason for deciding against it:

This is exactly what Noel Radomski, the director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, warned the Badger Herald. He said increases could impact attracting out-of-state students to UW-Wisconsin -- both quantity and quality. In fall 2013, nonresidents made up 26.8 percent of the undergraduate population, nearly meeting the 27.5 percent limit put in place by the UW System Board of Regents.