In-state tuition rates for the University of Wisconsin System have remained stable since 2013. The UW System Board of Regents continued this trend by extending the tuition freeze to in-state undergraduates for the 2022-23 academic year. Tuition cost is decided in the summer by the Board of Regents through discussions with the chancellors.
Running a large academic institution comes at a high cost. The operating budget at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 2021-22 reached $6.564 billion. According to a UW System press release, with these costs, universities attempt to make education accessible with lower tuition, especially for in-state students.
Because in-state costs remain the same, concerns from out-of-state and international students have grown. In-state tuition has not changed since 2013 even though the cost of living has increased significantly. For the 2022-23 school year, the out-of-state tuition for UW-Madison reached $38,654.00 per year, according to the Office of Student Financial Aid.
Associated Students of Madison (ASM) representative Steven Shi weighed in with his thoughts on the tuition freeze as an international student. Shi explained that while he believes the tuition freeze is fair for in-state students, the burden it can place on out-of-state and international students can be difficult.
Shi illustrated a stereotype that is commonly heard around campus, the idea that all international students are extremely wealthy.
“There are some stereotypes about how international students are wealthy,” Shi said. “Basically cash cows for everyone. But that is certainly not the case.”
“The vast majority of international students come from middle-class families or even lower. It can become quite a struggle for international students to pursue academic careers in the US,” Shi added.
UW System President Jay Rothman requested a review of affordability conducted by the UW System’s Office of Policy Analysis and Research that will compare the UW System costs to those of similar institutions. Students have raised questions as to whether or not the price comparison will act as justification for the UW System to raise prices and discontinue the tuition freeze in the coming years.
“Our foremost goal at UW–Madison is to offer the best education at the lowest possible cost,” UW-Madison communications specialist Greg Bump said. “Were there to be changes in tuition in future years, we would want to protect affordability for those who have fewer resources.”
If the freeze were to end, Bump clarified that low costs would remain through different financial aid programs and funds such as Bucky’s Tuition Promise. According to Bucky’s Tuition Promise website, this program is a “commitment to Wisconsin resident students,” and it guarantees scholarships for lower-income students.
Tuition discrepancies reside around in-state versus out-of-state costs. This leaves international students like Shi feeling forgotten as they face a plethora of additional fees. Such fees combined with increasing tuition makes higher education in the United States more difficult to pursue.
“[The] university needs to think urgently if they want to stay competitive amongst all the universities around the world and to stay honest to its commitment to accessible education,” Shi said.
ASM press officer Meghan Savaglia highlighted the complexity of the tuition freeze. She expressed the need for accessible and affordable education but recognized that the issue is not clear cut.
Savaglia said ASM’s goal is to “further initiatives to continue to make college more affordable for a wider range of students.”
The tuition freeze provoked questions regarding wages for both faculty and student employees.
“While in-state undergraduate tuition has been frozen, we have been able to make adjustments to full- and part-time employees compensation using other sources of funds,” Bump said.
Bump contends student employee wages have no relationship to the tuition freeze and employees who get paid partly through tuition costs are not to worry as funding will come from other sources.
The future of the tuition freeze is unknown beyond next year. However, the university maintains their main goal of keeping costs down and providing accessible education to all.