State News

Fate of 5 percent tuition cut in doubt

Few legislators have shown support for Gov. Scott Walker’s five percent tuition cut for in-state UW System students, with some going as far to say the current tuition freeze should be eliminated. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

A key UW-related budget proposal may be in danger, as several Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s five percent tuition cut proposal for the state’s public universities.

Walker’s budget proposal featured a tuition freeze for the 2017-18 school year, and a subsequent five percent reduction the following year, covered $35 million in state funds.

However, members of the governor’s own party could bring the plan down, as some conservatives in the legislature are wary of continuing a hold on tuition.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, told the Wisconsin State Journal Thursday that he is open to scrapping the freeze altogether, saying that to continue the policy is unfeasible.

Opposition from members of the Joint Finance Committee could be lethal to Walker’s proposal, as the committee holds considerable authority over the formulation of the budget.

State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, also a member of the Joint Finance Committee, expressed certainty in the item’s demise in the legislature, suggesting widespread disillusionment from Republican lawmakers toward the Governor’s out-of-character increase in planned spending.

However, with elections coming up in 2018, many Republicans have their eyes on public opinion.

“There have been no reforms adopted in the UW System that would justify eliminating the resident tuition freeze and the public supports the five percent tuition cut,” said state Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, in a press release. “The choice is clear, each legislator can stand with Wisconsin’s middle class families or they can stand with the all talk, no action UW System leadership.”

UW officials have expressed a desire for lawmakers to end the freeze, and empower the Board of Regents to oversee tuition issues instead.

UW System President Ray Cross told the Joint Finance Committee that he would rather the funds going to the tuition cut be appropriated for needs-based financial aid, a popular alternative among members of the committee.

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