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Saturday, June 22, 2024

University's prestige comes worth the price

Any person who knows me relatively well might tend to describe me, among many things, as occasionally frugal. So as a frequent penny pincher, I too am surprised to find myself endorsing tuition increases.

To be completely honest, I would have never imagined writing this until very recently. However, last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Chancellor Biddy Martin speak on, among other subjects, the recent tuition increases that were implemented on campus.

Last March, Martin approved the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. Included in this program is a per-year tuition increase of $250 for Wisconsin resident students and $750 for out-of-state attendees. These increases, totaling $10 million in extra revenue in the first year, support need-based grants, as well as additional faculty and increased support for student services.

Less than one year after the initiative was passed, the university is already seeing results, and some students are beginning to reap the benefits. The increases have allowed the university to hire more instructors, which means more classes and sections for students each semester.

Additionally, with these extra funds, departments now have the ability to retain the top professors on campus while bringing additional prime faculty to the university. However, for most students, these benefits are hardly apparent. Unless one of your recent professors was hired because of the initiative or you attend a section added with the extra revenue, you probably haven't been directly affected by the additional money you're dishing out.

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UW-Madison is already known around the globe as one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Anyone who is currently enrolled at the university is guaranteed to graduate with an extremely well-respected degree—whether you're on your fourth victory lap and almost ready to move on or just a freshman.

However, imagine if the university couldn't pay for the top faculty in the world. What if we could no longer support our current facilities or continue the expansion of new spaces? Imagine if our ever increasing student population found fewer spaces in classrooms with each semester. Wisconsin would no longer be able to attract the top students in the state and would certainly have difficulty wooing national and international undergraduates.

The university's reputation would quickly crumble, and the name Wisconsin would be met with distaste. Suddenly, that prestigious degree you earned years ago is worth very little. The big money you spent in your four (or five, or six...) years at Wisconsin turns into a pretty raw investment. When you turn in your resume to a potential employer, the name Wisconsin no longer gives you the benefit over the next person in line.

So in reality, the money that you pay today sweetens the investment tomorrow. The tuition increases charged to you now are the security for your future. To maintain the prestige of this university, students must begin to understand the cost of greatness. To better understand this idea, it might help to put the facts in perspective. Among Big Ten public institutions, Wisconsin has the second-lowest in-state tuition rates—even with the recent increases. Wisconsin residents currently pay $8,314 per year. Only Iowa ranks lower, and Penn State sits at the top with tuition soaring well past $14,000 annually. UW nonresident tuition ranks fourth lowest.

Yet UW-Madison continually ranks atop the Big Ten in academic and research prestige. With these tuition increases, Wisconsin will continue hiring the top faculty from across the world, it will be able to add more classes and more sections each semester and students from every corner of the globe will continue to pour into campus. The university will maintain its position as the magnate school in the state, and its world-class reputation will only increase.

So while you might complain about paying the extra money now, your future depends on these increases. Your degree is only as valuable as Wisconsin's reputation, and Wisconsin's reputation depends on the university's willingness to continue improving faculty, facilities, and amenities. The university can only further its offerings when it has the proper resources.

The extra investment now, while tough, guarantees that your degree will continue to carry prestige long after you leave this campus.

Mark Bennett is a freshman intending to major in journalism. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to


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