Today, the Board of Regents adopted a resolution related to all five components of college affordability:  state funding, financial aid, cost to deliver, tuition, and time to graduate.  Time to graduate is one of the most important factors – the longer it takes to get a degree, the higher the cost.  The Board also recommended to freeze tuition for the 2018 academic year and approved a cost-of-living increase for tuition in 2019.

“The Board of Regents, UW System Administration, and each of our institutions are working hard to address the factors that impact college affordability,” said Board President Regina Millner.  “We have requested more financial aid for our students, approved a state funding request for initiatives to address affordability, continued to streamline operations, and have now addressed tuition so that our families can plan ahead.”

“As a parent who wrote a check for college last month, we never want to pay more.  However, time to degree is an economic issue that makes this resolution very timely.  I am also swayed by the testimony we heard from businesses that they need our graduates now, which makes time to degree a matter that both affects parents and employers,” said Board Vice-President John Behling.

“As a student, I have personally benefitted from the tuition freeze.  I understand that to maintain a sustainable, high quality educational system, tuition cannot remain flat forever, with external forces at work such as inflation and the cost of living.  I realize that tuition will rise, but we must do so with great due diligence to remain accountable to the citizens of Wisconsin, and continue to pursue truth and move forward together as a system, state, and people,” said Student Regent James A. Langnes, III.

“College affordability is a priority we heard from families in our 2020FWD listening sessions.  We are committed to looking at the big picture of affordability, as well as the complete picture.  Tuition helps fund our instructional operations, and we want to get more students into and through the educational pipeline.  College is an investment of time and money, and we are committed to maintaining the affordable, world-class education our students and families expect and deserve,” said UW President Ray Cross.

Historically, tuition has been discussed in June or July, after budget expenditures have been planned.  This does not provide families time to plan, with adjustments going into effect in the fall.  Based upon the current 1.1 percent consumer price index, a cost-of-living increase would equal approximately $7.5 million. The Board’s Tuition-Setting Task Force will help determine a mechanism for setting tuition in the future.

The other factors of college affordability include:

  • State funding. State funding has declined by $362 million in recent years. State general purpose revenue (GPR), adjusted for inflation, is the lowest it has ever been in the UW System’s more than 40-year history.   The Board has approved a UW System request of $42.5 million in state GPR over the next biennium to fund the 2020FWD initiatives to keep college affordable and develop the workforce of tomorrow. This includes expanding college-credit options for high school students, reducing time-to-degree, expanding college credit transfer options, and responding to the needs of non-traditional students, such as working adults.
  • Financial aid. In June 2016, the Board approved a request for an additional $19 million over the biennium, which would be given directly to students through the Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB). State funding for the Wisconsin Grant Program has remained flat since 2010-11 at $58.3 million.
  • Cost of the university experience.  The UW System has streamlined operations, such as Human Resources and information technology, and will continue to centralize or share services where possible.  The UW System Commitment to Operational Reform and Effectiveness (CORE) project is an element of the Operational Excellence area of 2020FWD.
  • Time to graduate. This is one of the most important – but often overlooked factors – in the affordability equation. Getting students into and through the educational pipeline more quickly can help reduce the cost of college, and get the person into the workforce faster to begin earning wages.  Example:  if tuition increased $100 a semester, the increase would equal $800 over the four-year experience.  Comparatively, it could cost a student approximately $5,000 more to stay an extra semester if they cannot graduate in a timely fashion.  2020FWD emphasizes the use of predicative analytics and 360 Advising to help students down the path to timely graduation.

The college affordability resolution was approved unanimously by the Board of Regents.

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