MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents took a stand Thursday against a proposed constitutional amendment that would hurt student access and affordability by limiting state and local revenue.
“We believe the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment would force the UW to admit fewer students, and tuition would have to significantly increase,” said Board of Regents President David G. Walsh. “Those results are not in the public’s best interest. Today’s action is part of our responsibility to make sure the state’s public university system is accessible to the maximum number of Wisconsin’s sons and daughters, provides them a quality higher education and meets the needs of all Wisconsin citizens.”
The Board voted to approve a resolution opposing the proposed constitutional amendment, which would place limits on revenue that can be collected by state and local governments. The resolution also opposes any proposed constitutional amendment that would routinely require state referenda for budget matters that are traditionally voted on by elected representatives. Thenotes that because the proposed amendment will reduce critical state funding for higher education, it will likely:
- Force increased tuition and student enrollment caps;
- Decrease citizen access to statewide UW-Extension services, and limit student access to the freshman-sophomore UW Colleges, which would both be impacted by limits on both state and county revenue;
- Harm the state’s ability to leverage federal funds that support university research in areas like health care, homeland security, and economic development; and
- Inhibit the university’s goal to increase the number of citizens with four-year college degrees, an essential strategy for growing Wisconsin’s knowledge economy.
Regents learned about the potential impacts of the proposed amendment at their regular March meeting. One of the proposed amendment’s co-sponsors, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), told the Board that the amendment was intended to stimulate Wisconsin’s economic growth by creating a more favorable tax environment. In addition, an aide to Rep. Jeff Wood (R-Chippewa Falls), the amendment’s other co-sponsor, agreed that the proposed constitutional amendment would probably result in a significant increase in tuition as well as additional costs. An analysis by Andrew Reschovsky, a professor at UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, projected that the UW System would have received approximately $200 million less in state support if the proposed amendment had been in effect over the last ten years.
“In a word, the impact on the UW System would be crippling,” observed Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville.
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly indicated that the UW System will work vigorously in the weeks and months ahead with chancellors, faculty and staff across the state to communicate about these priorities with local communities and citizens.
“It’s important for our students and for the economic health of Wisconsin that budget decisions like these remain in the hands of elected officials,” Reilly said. “The right choice for the state at this time is to reject this proposed amendment, and to instead reinvest in the state’s public university system.”
“The Regents must make the right choices in the best interest of our students, their families and the public,” Walsh added. “The Board is ready to work with state government to fulfill the public’s priorities for the future.”