Students in Madison protest tuition hike

by Bryan Keogh

At least 500 students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison walked out of classes Wednesday, protesting a 9.6 percent tuition hike.
Organizers who planned the walkout estimated that between 500 and 1,000 students left their classes, carried signs and listened to speakers on the campus mall who called for a tuition freeze.
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted for the tuition increase in July, prompting strong opposition from the student body and other campus watchdog groups.
“The attitude here is that school should be cheap,” said Beth Williams, an editor at the Badger Herald campus newspaper. “A 9.6 percent increase is enough to upset people.”
The in-state tuition increase translates to $145 per semester, making the total cost of attending the Madison campus $3,290.
John Torphy, vice chancellor for administration, said students at Madison who pay in-state tuition are charged the second-lowest amount in the Big Ten, even after the price hike.
The United Council of University of Wisconsin Students, an organization that represents student legal interests, has been encouraging state legislators to apply a state surplus toward the tuition freeze.
The state Legislature has not agreed on the University’s budget request. The tuition hike is the regents’ attempt to prepare for the worst-case scenario, said council president Michelle Diggles.
About 4,200 undergraduates who receive Pell Grants or Wisconsin Higher Education Grants will get an additional $300, Torphy said. These students will actually pay less than current tuition prices, he added.
College officials also contend that the tuition hike is justified and necessary “to maintain and enhance the university’s competitiveness in the new millennium,” according to a University statement.
After several hours of demonstrating on the mall, more than 200 protesters marched eight blocks down State Street to the state Capitol.
Representatives of the Associated Students of Madison, the elected student governing body, spoke with state Sen. Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, who supports the tuition-freeze legislation.
“Our state Legislature hasn’t passed the budget yet, so they could freeze tuition,” said Adam Klaus, chair of the student governing body.
For UW students, the hike is simply a continuation of a trend involving several tuition increases during the last four years, Williams said.
Tshaka Barrows, a student government representative, estimated that this year’s increase is more than five times the rate of inflation.
“The University of Wisconsin is a public institution and must remain so. When tuition increases continually price students out of the university, we are making a mockery of any claim to public education,” Klaus said in a prepared statement. “An affordable, quality education is a right.”
Heather Hayes, a sophomore in Spanish at Madison, said the tuition hike will not start impacting her financially until the end of her academic career. “I think it’s bad, but it won’t affect me much this year.”
Other University of Wisconsin four-year colleges’ tuition rates are increasing 6.9 percent. Tuition at two-year institutions have jumped 7.9 percent.

Bryan Keogh covers University professional schools and welcomes comments at [email protected]. He can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.