Walker’s cuts will resonate beyond Wis.

As Wisconsin cuts funding, Minnesota must uphold tuition freezes and affordable prices.

by Camille Galles

As Gophers, most University of Minnesota students are excited when Madison loses. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent budget proposals call for the Wisconsin schools to lose way more than just the Axe. The effects of the proposed $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin system won’t stop at the border — they’ll profoundly influence the entire Midwest.

Despite our neighboring state’s budget cuts, it is vital that the Minnesota Legislature continues to give its own public university system the funding it requires.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are remarkably similar. Both enroll a similar amount of students, offer similar programs and provide similar tuition rates to Minnesota and Wisconsin students through a reciprocity agreement. But a $300 million cut from the Wisconsin system will quickly end those similarities.

Research suggests that, throughout the country, cuts in state funding are directly correlated to tuition increases. For example, Wisconsin’s tuition increased by $1,530 between 2008 and 2014, while funding per student decreased by $1,401 within that same timeframe. This data directly refutes the opinions of those like Walker, who insist that tuition can remain affordable throughout budget cuts by implementing administrative cuts or requiring teachers to take on an increased workload.

It seems unlikely that UW-Madison or any of the UW schools will be able to maintain tuition at the current levels after such a dramatic budget cut. As a result, attending school in Minnesota will be become a much more affordable option for students debating between Madison and the University of Minnesota.

Our University isn’t without its own funding troubles, however. Recently, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed to fund only half of the University’s proposed tuition freeze and planned to grant the school only a quarter of the total funds it requested. This is nowhere near as drastic as the budget cuts Wisconsin universities are facing, but it remains imperative that the University stays an affordable tuition.

If UW-Madison tuition dramatically increases, students torn between two Big Ten schools will be more likely to attend Minnesota. But if Minnesota’s tuition continues to climb, students might look elsewhere for schooling.

While Minnesota’s largest city isn’t the perfect “miracle” that The Atlantic recently made it out to be, a large reason why Minneapolis is so successful is because it attracts young, bright professionals who have ideas, art and economic power.

Many of these professionals first begin their Minneapolis experience at the University. The school’s production of educated, well-rounded thinkers is vital to the city’s survival.

It doesn’t look good for UW schools, but Walker’s proposed budget cuts give Minnesota the opportunity to continue to support affordable higher education.

Now more than ever, lawmakers shouldn’t squander it.