EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a broad resolution on college affordability Friday that included resident undergraduate tuition recommendations for the 2017-19 biennium.

The Regents unanimously approved a freeze in resident undergraduate tuition for the 2017-18 academic year and an increase in 2018-19 of no more than the cost of living.

While discussions about tuition traditionally have taken place in June or July, when the University considers its annual operating budget, UW System President Ray Cross and Regent President Regina Millner agreed that setting tuition rates earlier would allow both families and the University more time to effectively and efficiently plan for the future.

President Millner pointed out that the UW System has had significant reductions in state funding in eight of the last 10 years. State funding for the UW System has declined by $362 million from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2017. “Adjusted for inflation, our GPR funding is now at its lowest level in UW System’s history,” Millner said.

The UW System is also in its fourth year of a tuition freeze for undergraduate resident tuition.

“A tuition freeze is a popular thing. And, yes, it provides relief in the short term – but we need to recognize that a freeze does not necessarily equal affordability,” Millner said.

President Ray Cross reminded the Board that tuition is only one part of the college affordability equation. Other factors include state funding, financial aid, cost of the university experience, and time to degree, he said, and there are initiatives related to all four factors in the UW’s 2020FWD strategic framework.

“Let’s not get tuition tunnel-vision,” Cross said, pointing to time-to-degree as a particularly important priority in the University’s quest to enhance college affordability for students and families. Several initiatives in the UW System’s 2020FWD framework target decreasing time-to-degree.

Regent Gerald Whitburn called the proposed plan to raise tuition up to the Consumer Price Index in the second year of the 2017-19 biennium appropriate. “It should be affordable for students and their families,” Whitburn said.

Regent Vice President John Behling said that as a parent who just wrote a check to the UW last month, no-one ever wants to write a larger check. But he called the proposed tuition recommendation “timely and smart.” Noting how many business owners have expressed interest in hiring UW graduates and the sooner the better, Behling said, “this is not just about parents but also employers and economic development.”

Student Regent James Langnes III, a junior at UW-Whitewater, acknowledged that he, personally, has benefited from the tuition freeze. “As a business undergraduate student, I understand that to maintain a sustainable, high quality educational system, tuition cannot remain flat forever, with external forces at work like inflation and the cost of living,” Langes said. “I realize that in the future tuition will rise, but we must do so with great due diligence.”

While UW tuition is generally low compared to peer group institutions, Regent Tracy Klein pointed out that low tuition in itself can create longer time to degree. She also noted that remedial English and mathematics courses may also extend time to degree.

Regent Tim Higgins, chair of the Tuition-Setting Task Force which will look at future tuition setting policies and process, said their focus is on tuition that is “justified and justifiable.”

Presidents’ Reports

As part of her regular report to the Board, Regent President Regina Millner told Regents that the Tuition-setting Task Force, which will inform how tuition is set in the future, resumes its meetings next Lamonth. The Campus Climate Task Force is currently receiving nominations for membership.

UW System President Ray Cross told Regents that outreach and advocacy efforts related to the 2020FWD framework and the budget proposal approved in August are picking up momentum. He said the UW System team has been actively engaging with the Governor’s office and key legislative leaders on different aspects of the budget request and response generally has been positive.

As part of his “News from Around the UW System” report, Cross shared the news that UW-Milwaukee theater professor Anne Basting was recently named a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, an award commonly known as the “Genius grant.” Basting is an expert in integrating arts into aging services and long-term care. She is the first UWM faculty member to earn the prestigious award.

For his “Student Spotlight,” Cross introduced UW-Eau Claire senior Derek Dahlk, who is majoring in liberal studies with a focus on critical theory and public policy. Dahlk is working with the City of Eau Claire’s Advisory Commission on Sustainability, creating policy briefs and promotional materials about solar policy and water conservation.

Dahlk told Regents that the value of multi-faceted collaboration is one of the most important lessons of his career at UW-Eau Claire. “Instead of working in different spheres on personal missions, you come together and pool resources,” Dahlk said. “It improves efficiency and is mutually beneficial to all parties involved.”

  • See video of the Student Spotlight:

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved a Resolution of Appreciation recognizing UW-Eau Claire for hosting the October meeting;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s Online Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s online (hybrid) Master of Science in Information Science and Technology;
  • Approved UW-Oshkosh’s revised mission statement;
  • Approved proposed revisions to sections of UW-Green Bay’s Faculty Personnel Rules related to graduate programs and councils;
  • Approved proposed revisions to UW­-Whitewater Faculty Personnel Rules, specifically Chapter VI, Rules Governing Complaints and Grievances Against Faculty Under UWS 6 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code (Chapter VI);
  • Approved creation of the Office of Educational Opportunity (OEO) within the UW System Office of the President, as mandated by s. 36.64, Wis. Stats.;
  • Approved the FY 2016 UW System Report on Program Revenue Balances and the individual spending and savings plans included in that report;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s Master Clinical Trial Agreement with Lilly USA, LLC;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s Master Clinical Trial Agreement with MacroGenics, Inc.;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s Master Clinical Trial Agreement with Genentech, Inc.;
  • Approved an exception to Board policy that requires non-endowed gifts in excess of $250,000 to become Board-designated endowments, as requested by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank;
  • Approved the establishment of an overarching Regent Policy Document (RPD) requiring UW System Chancellors to maintain institution-specific policies in 10 broad areas related to health, safety, and security planning, and require members of the university community to comply with applicable health and safety policies;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for authority to construct the Towers Hall Renovation project to repair the exterior envelope and renovate both wings of the facility;
  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request for authority to construct a 35,200 GSF addition to the Recreational Eagle Center;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to lease space for the College of Letters and Science to facilitate the merger of the Career Initiative and Career Services units;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct the UW-River Falls South Fork Suites Roof Replacement maintenance and repair project; and
  • Approved the reappointment of Gregory Nycz, Kenneth Taylor, Dr. Robert F. Lemanske and Dr. Patrick Remington to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Partnership Program for four-year terms beginning November 1, 2016.


The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on November 10, 2016, in Madison.