The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is delegated the authority to set tuition under s. 36.27 of the statutes. The statutes permit the Regents to set separate rates for different classes of students, for residents and nonresidents, and for extension courses, summer sessions, and special programs.
The Board uses Tuition Policy Principles (PDF shown to the right) while setting tuition in an effort to balance educational quality, access, and ability to pay.
Tuition rates are established annually at the same time as the University’s annual operating budget is approved. Separate rates are set for students at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, the comprehensive institutions, and the UW Colleges. Tuition typically supports only the “instructional” portion of the UW budget. Instructional costs include faculty salaries and fringe benefits, which comprise the largest portion of instructional costs; supplies and services; administration; libraries; student services; and support costs.
Changes in tuition are the result of changes in costs, changes in state support for the University, and other factors. Significant reductions to the state support were made under the 2003-05, 2005-07, 2009-11, and 2011-13 biennial budgets. During the 2003-05, 2009-11, and 2011-13 biennia, the Board of Regents increased tuition to partially offset these GPR base reductions.
Beginning in 1997, the Regents have had the ability to implement differential tuition programs. Differential tuition is an amount charged on top of base tuition to support additional services and programming for students at a particular institution. Differential tuition can be charged to all students enrolled at a particular institution; to a particular category of students, such as all undergraduates; or only to students enrolled in certain programs.
By Board policy, students shall be advised and consulted of all planned differential tuition initiatives before proposals are submitted to the Board of Regents. For more information, please see Regent Policy Document 32-7: Student Involvement in Differential Tuition Initiatives.
Program-specific differential tuitions are usually charged for programs that have high operating costs such as the health sciences and engineering. A differential tuition may be set at a dollar amount or as a percentage of base tuition.
Additional revenues generated by a differential tuition are retained by the campus or program where they are generated.
The Minnesota-Wisconsin Higher Education Reciprocity Agreement allows Minnesota and Wisconsin residents to attend higher education institutions in either state without having to pay nonresident tuition. The agreement is negotiated and administered jointly by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE) and the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB). In Wisconsin, the agreement is subject to legislative approval by the Joint Committee on Finance.
For more information, please see the HEAB website.
Midwest Student Exchange
In 2005, Wisconsin joined the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP). MSEP is a program of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. This program allows undergraduate and graduate students from participating states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota, to attend colleges or universities in other participating states at a tuition of no more than 150 percent of resident tuition.
For more information, please visit the Midwestern Higher Education Compact website.