The Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature voted on May 27 to lift the tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students at University of Wisconsin system schools.
This proposal, backed by the Republican-majority committee, would give the UW System the authority to once again set their tuition prices and potentially increase tuition for in-state undergraduate students for the first time in eight years.
Despite the freeze’s success in saving students money over the years, concerns have been raised about UW System schools’ ability to maintain a quality education and environment due to rising costs — something that Republicans feel lifting the tuition freeze would fix.
Republicans have declined to offset the money campuses have lost due to inflation with more state money — a solution favored by Democrats — according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
With the tuition freeze in place, UW-Madison found ways to increase their revenue stream during the freeze period by enrolling more out-of-state students who pay more in tuition than their in-state counterparts.
In January, UW System President Tommy Thompson announced at a panel discussion that he didn’t plan on requesting the lift of the tuition freeze, at the advice of Republican legislators.
"I have been told in no uncertain terms by the leadership of the Legislature that if I come in with a tuition increase, the budget is not going to go anywhere," Thompson said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Additionally, the UW System praised Gov. Evers’s budget proposal for 2021-23 following its release in late February. The proposal included $190 million in new funding for the UW-Madison System, with $50 million going towards aiding the deficit left by the tuition freeze.
“Governor Evers’ budget for the UW System will allow us to tackle Wisconsin’s most pressing challenges,” Thompson said in a February statement.
Last week, the GOP instead voted in favor of lifting the freeze, claiming that UW System schools have been more straightforward about policies and finances in recent years, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Chancellor Blank expressed her thoughts in a press release on Thursday.
“The end of the tuition freeze will allow UW campuses to manage tuition increases within reasonable limits,” said Blank, underscoring the UW’s years-long hostility towards the freeze.
Incoming ASM Chair Adrian Lampron said that the 28th Session has yet to establish a collective position on the issue.
“Our organization always wants to ensure that higher education is accessible,” continued Lampron. “[We] will likely engage with this issue when we are ready to do so.”
In response to the possibility of rising tuition prices, UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone highlighted the school’s intention to continue to help in-state students fund their education through financial aid programs.
“Through Bucky’s Tuition Promise, UW-Madison will continue to support in-state students and families with a guarantee of four years tuition-free to all students whose household income is $60,000 or below,” McGlone said Tuesday.
Ultimately, this motion will still need approval from the Wisconsin Assembly, Senate and Gov. Tony Evers in order to end the nearly decade-long tuition freeze.