MADISON, Wis. – Aug. 2, 2007 – Although major questions about state funding are still unanswered, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents must approve an annual operating budget and set tuition rates at a special meeting next Tuesday. UW System President Kevin P. Reilly will recommend a budget focused on affordability, educational access, and academic quality.

“Students will begin returning to our campuses very soon. Regardless of many uncertainties surrounding our state budget process, they and their families deserve clear answers,” said Reilly.

With the legislature sharply divided on a biennial budget, state statutes direct the Regents to use the budget already adopted by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Finance as the basis for UW System’s annual operating budget.

If enacted, the Joint Finance bill would fund the UW System’s current academic programs, student services, community outreach, and scientific research. It would support new academic buildings, maintain existing facilities, and provide $21.5 million in 2008-09 to expand the number of seats in UW classrooms and boost job-creating university research.

“These initiatives are essential to Wisconsin’s future competitiveness in a global economy,” said Reilly.

State government has yet to act on a separate request by the Regents, from December 2006, to limit tuition increases to 3.3%. Holding tuition at that level would require that the state provide all funds needed to cover routine annual salary increases for UW faculty and academic staff.

Reilly’s proposed budget would freeze tuition for the 12,000 students enrolled at all 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges campuses. Resident undergraduate students at the four-year UW campuses would see modest annual increases of $251 to $330. These would be the smallest dollar increases in five years, and the lowest percent increase in seven years.

The UW Colleges have long been the UW System’s most affordable choice for incoming students who can then complete their baccalaureate degree at any four-year UW campus. University leaders want to ensure that these campuses remain competitively priced.

“Ideally, the state would have fulfilled the Board’s original request. Based on an honest examination of the political and fiscal landscape, however, we cannot assume that we’ll see a compensation plan that is fully supported by the state,” said Reilly.

“As we make budget and tuition decisions that are vitally important to families and students, we are hampered by not knowing what state government will do to the university’s budget,” added Reilly. “One thing is clear, however. If the legislature backs off from the reinvestments in the UW already approved by the Regents, the Governor, the bipartisan Joint Committee on Finance, and the Senate, higher tuition is the chief alternative to preserve the level of quality and service demanded by Wisconsinites.”

“In spite of uncertainty caused by the unresolved state budget process, the UW System’s commitment to affordability and educational access remains strong,” said Mark J. Bradley, president of the UW System Board of Regents. “It’s important that we preserve affordable points of entry to the UW System, while being good stewards of the educational quality for which the UW is internationally recognized.”

The recommended $330 annual tuition increase at UW-Madison compares to average increases of $457 at other Big 10 universities. If approved, the increase for UW-Madison students would be among the lowest of the Big 10 universities, and tuition at UW-Madison would remain the second-lowest among those peer universities.

“Under this plan, students at all 26 UW System campuses will continue to receive a world-class education that will yield lifelong dividends,” said Reilly “By freezing UW Colleges tuition, we keep an affordable option wide open, where students benefit from top-notch instruction and unlimited transfer flexibility at a competitive price.”

Annual Tuition Increases Recommended for the 2007-08 Academic Year 5.5% total recommended annual increase for resident undergraduate students Annual tuition for 2007-08
11 Four-Year
Comprehensive Campuses
for 66,700 students
UW-Milwaukee $323
for 22,634 students
UW-Madison $330
for 19,435 students
13 Freshman/Sophomore
UW Colleges
for 12,398 students

Media Contact

David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464