UW tuition

W. Lee Hansen Prof. Emeritus, Economics, UW-Madison

To the Editor,

Governor Walker’s $300 million budget cut for UW System will increase pressure to raise tuition to help finance the cost of instruction for resident undergraduate students.

In the 1950s and 1960s UW student tuition was set at 20 percent of instructional cost, with taxpayers financing the other 80 percent. In 2000-01 the student percentage stood at 36 percent. By 2004-05 it had been pushed up to 52 percent and then to 71 percent in 2013- 14.

The cost of instruction does not account for this change. In fact, the cost of instruction in the UW System over the past decade rose by slightly less than the price level.

To maintain the quality of instruction as taxpayer support dwindled, tuition had to increase. By 2013-14 taxpayer support per student had fallen to less than $3,000, and tuition hit a new high of $7,232.

Enacting the Governor’s $150 million annual budget cut will reduce by roughly $1,000 the taxpayer resources available to support the per student cost of instruction. Taxpayer support will drop from 29 percent to 21 percent. The student share will rise to almost 80 percent, a reversal of the split prevailing in the 1950s and 1960s.

With the Governor’s tuition freeze in place, the 10 percent drop in funds available to pay instructional costs will jeopardize the UW System’s capacity to continue providing affordable, high quality undergraduate education to Wisconsin citizens.


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