The UW System Board of Regents passed a responsible operating budget for 2007-08 at its meeting on August 7. In the midst of great uncertainty due to the state budget being undecided, and with no recommendation from the state on its share of the pay plan for faculty and staff, the Regents needed to put a budget in place for the 2007-08 school year. The Board also needed to send a clear message to students and their families about tuition charges for the year.
The Board held the tuition increase to 5.5% at all four-year campuses and froze tuition at the thirteen 2-year campuses across the State. The increase at UW-Madison is the lowest among Big 10 institutions, except for Ohio State. In Ohio, state government is setting aside a special pot of money to “buy down” their tuition increase.
The university budget is now being considered by the Conference Committee in the legislature. Among the ideas discussed by some Conference Committee members has been keeping tuition at 4%.
The Board of Regents and System President Kevin Reilly have worked diligently in the absence of a state budget to hold tuition to the lowest possible level consistent with maintaining the quality of education at our campuses. It is the responsibility of the Board of Regents as stewards of the UW System to prevent our best teachers and researchers from being hired away because of low salaries. Moreover, public and community leaders, and editorial boards from each region in Wisconsin, have weighed in publicly that they want more baccalaureate degree holders, not fewer, to grow their companies and communities in a globally competitive knowledge economy. That is why the university put forward its Growth Agenda for Wisconsin.
In response to these calls for more university graduates, the Regents approved a budget with a responsible 5.5% tuition increase for 2007-08. Should the legislature decide to substitute its judgment for the Regents’ judgment and increase tuition by 4% instead of 5.5%, the legislature should supply the GPR needed to cover the 1.5% it would be stripping out of the university’s budget right before the school semester begins. In “buying down” the tuition by 1.5%, the legislature would be responding to the calls from each corner of the state to open additional slots at our campuses for Wisconsin students, and to use our universities to help grow the jobs that will provide gainful employment and a good quality of life in the Badger State for our children and grandchildren.