Blank: Tuition cut is 'peanuts compared to what's needed'
Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke candidly about tuition cuts and affordability at Monday’s University Affairs Committee.Image By: Kaitlyn Veto
With Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal on the horizon, a fresh group of future Badgers await letters from the financial aid office; funding is also on the university’s mind. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke candidly to the University Affairs committee Monday about her thoughts regarding state funding and scholarship disbursement.
During her Chancellor’s Update, members of the faculty asked Blank if she had new information regarding the governor's plans to finance in-state tuition cuts that followed the Board of Regent’s request to raise tuition and increase need-based aid.
“Clearly the governor's announcement at the state of the state was turning those two requests down,” said Blank. She had no further information but noted that the governor said he will fund the cut; which would require $7 million in state funding for every one percent reduction.
“It will not surprise you to know that I think this isn’t the best way to use state dollars,” said Blank, who formerly served as acting United States Secretary of Commerce under the Obama administration.
“Saving everybody a hundred dollars or so is peanuts compared to what’s needed, which is affordability for low and middle-income students,” said Blank who endorsed the Regent’s proposal. “We have large numbers of families for whom that hundred dollars is meaningless. And large numbers of families for whom substantial more financial aid could make a difference.”
When the Board of Regents requested an increase in funding, according to Blank, they also pointed out that funding for need-based aid has not increased in almost a decade while the number of students and tuition cost have continued to rise.
“The percentage of need that that aid fills has become quite small, almost minuscule,” said Blank.
At UW-Madison, scholarships are controlled by the departments and college within the university and donors often have strict criteria for who can receive the aid. Blank noted that it is often juniors and seniors that receive these grants, with little to no communication with the Office of Student Financial Aid.
She said that recently, the university has limited the numbers of restrictions donors can attach to a gift. Along with more first-year students being admitted directly to different university colleges, Blank noted she hopes more scholarships will be awarded to freshmen and in turn, attract top talent.
Both the committee and Blank were eager to be able to award scholarships from the “Nicholas match”, a $100 million endowment that will generate $4.5 million in funds yearly.
However, she stressed that donors could not compare to state funding for need-based aid. Blank compared the $4.5 million in scholarship donations to the $35 million dollars in funding that would be needed for a rumored five percent cut.
“If you put $35 million in scholarships that would swap the Nicholas match,” said Blank. “That money in affordability, what a difference that would make to us, and all concentrated on those in need.”
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