Wisconsin discusses tuition increase

Students with reciprocity deal could end up paying $250 more per year.

by Courtney Blanchard

When tuition goes up at the University next year, many students will have their fate tied to a different state than Minnesota.

The Wisconsin Board of Regents sets tuition for Wisconsin students at the University, who will likely see rates increase by 4 or 5 percent next year.

Susan Fischer, director of student financial services at the University of Wisconsin, provided the unofficial estimate, which will affect the 5,620 Wisconsin students here at the University.

“But we won’t know until the regents and legislators do their little dance over the summer,” she said.

According to a report by the University of Wisconsin, tuition has increased every year by an average of 8.5 percent since the 1997-98 school year.

The proposed increase is lower than average, but some Wisconsin legislators say that isn’t good enough.

Republican Rep. Steve Nass, chair of the Committee on Colleges and Universities in the Wisconsin Assembly, was not available for comment, but his spokesman Mike Mikalsen said the Wisconsin Legislature is debating a tuition cap.

Mikalsen said that while tuition is still lower than at the University of Minnesota, tuition is increasing at rates too high for students to afford, especially when living expenses, fees and books are factored in.

“The UW system has not been held accountable,” he said. “It has been the increasing lack of oversight by the Legislature on the UW system.”

University of Wisconsin spokesman Dave Giroux said the tuition increases are a result of state budget cuts.

“It’s unfair when you speak about tuition increases in terms of mismanagement,” he said.

He said the University system absorbed greater budget cuts than any other part of state government in recent years.

Giroux said University officials tried to boost financial aid programs to compensate for the increases in tuition.

Increases might appear large in comparison to the University of Minnesota because Wisconsin tuition is generally lower, but Giroux said it’s simply a mathematical explanation.

“When you have a small denominator, any increase is going to be incrementally larger,” he said. “Tuition here is still a bargain.”

But some Wisconsin students attending the University of Minnesota say their tuition is a bargain because this University does its own share of unnecessary spending.

English and French sophomore Margo Robmann, originally from Madison, said she sees Wisconsin universities spending more wisely than Minnesota, with lower tuition as a result.

Robmann criticized the University’s expenditure on things like the new stadium and the “Driven to Discover” campaign.

“The campaigns to make the school look better make me feel like I’m attending a corporation,” she said.

Robmann said Minnesota should lower tuition for everybody in light of recent debates about Wisconsin reciprocity.

Even when tuition increases slightly, Robmann said, it usually ends with her working more hours.