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Funding tuition freeze, mandatory segregated fees shape ASM biennial budget request

UW System and Associated Students of Madison have both released their requests for the upcoming 2019-’21 biennial budget. The question is, how will this fare as the state legislature work with Gov. Evers as he drafts the executive budget in the coming months?

Image By: Briana Tolksdorf

Prior to the governor’s executive budget release, the Associated Students of Madison announced their recommendations to fund the tuition freeze and protect allocable student segregated fees Wednesday. 

Timely to the budget request, Chancellor Rebecca Blank stopped by to speak with the students about the dropping temperatures, the Badger Promise and of course, the rising costs of non-resident tuition. 

Last December, the UW System committed to a tuition hike for non-resident, international and some graduate student programs. Those students are to see their tuition raise more than 2 percent, amounting to $38,443 for non-residential students in 2020-’21. 

Talks of the low international student population promoted ASM Legislative Affairs Chair Laura Downer to bring up the contradiction between looking to increase diversity and the increase in costs for international students to come. 

“If we’re looking to increase the diversity of students coming here, isn’t increasing the amount of non-residential tuition somewhat of a barrier?” she asked. 

Blank said that beyond this rise in tuition costs, they are “not looking to make any more increases anytime soon.” She stated how they will only rise with inflation, while stating the need to increase more financial aid options for non-residential and international students.

One of the only ways to increase those available options is through a revised budget that will rebuild the funds that were lost in the residential student tuition freeze. With the budgets drafted from the UW System and ASM, the voice of Wisconsin public universities will not go unheard. 

The Board of Regents approved their 2019-’21 biennial budget last August, focusing on affordability and return of investment for the Wisconsin community. A large portion of the budget was dedicated to renovations, repair and replacement of facilities across the campuses. Much of the UW System's 62 million square foot building area was built in the latter-half of the 20th century with little upgrades since its establishment. 

ASM supported the system’s allocation of funds to the buildings, especially noting the importance of conducting research in “high-quality” facilities that also provide proper compensation to the faculty. UW-Madison was recognized as one of the top five research facilities in the country. 

“But we are no longer among the top five, and we will continue to drop if we cannot attract top-tier professors or provide our students and faculty with the space to conduct research,” they wrote. 

At the meeting, UW System President Ray Cross also boasted the system students as the “innovative thinkers and creative problem-solvers that the 21st century needs and expects.” 

In order for the UW System to offer quality education that moves students forward in their careers, “the 30-year trend of decreased funding does not justly fulfill the responsibility of the State of Wisconsin to ensure access to affordable public universities which prepare students to enter the workforce,” ASM wrote in their request. 

The tuition freeze limited the cost of resident tuition, making it more affordable for Wisconsin residents. However, it limits the ability for the university to grow in quality and research opportunity, as well as a progressive loss of revenue among the thirteen campuses, according to ASM. 

The university tuition balance declined from 16 percent to 6 percent from 2013 to 2017. Five percent of the financial support comes from Wisconsin to UW-Madison, while 44 percent comes from the federal government. 

The support expenditures from the state to UW-Madison is the second lowest in the Big Ten. Knowing this, ASM has asked for the state of Wisconsin to fully fund the freeze. 

“Without state support, we harm the quality of education and research which occur on our campuses and limit our ability to serve our state and help grow Wisconsin’s economy,” they wrote. 

After years of combatting potential opt-out to mandatory segregated fees, ASM reiterated the importance of keeping those fees permanent in the UW-Madison student fees. 

Those fees account for just over $26 a semester, while also promoting the Wisconsin Idea by preparing students with the financial resources to design and complete programming that continues to promote creativity in learning, as well as professional and personal development.

As the state crosses over to a new governor, Student Judiciary Chief Justice Thomas Summerwill asked Blank if there were “any fears” that the opt-out segregated fee option will be reconsidered. In the previous budget, UW-Madison was successfully able to ask for more time to flesh out the segregated fees and they were kept mandatory. 

“I think we may have to fight that battle again. I would be surprised if that does not come up again,” Blank said. “Are there legislators that might try to put in legislation, yes. But, we have not heard anything yet.”

ASM passed their request among the representatives of the student council, which will then be discussed with UW student representatives Saturday. 

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