Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville) and Sen. André Jacque (R-De Pere) proposed a bill on Tuesday that would limit the increase in University of Wisconsin System tuition to no more than the rate of inflation.
This bill follows a ten-year tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students at the UW System’s four-year universities. Initiated under former Gov. Scott Walker after a state review revealed nearly $650 million in tuition dollars unspent in reserves, the freeze was renewed and continued under current Gov. Tony Evers.
In 2021, the Republican-led budget committee voted to end the then eight-year tuition freeze. The decision allowed the UW System’s Board of Regents to make rulings regarding tuition raises, who voted last June to continue the freeze for another year.
Similarly, Murphy and Jacque introduced another bill in 2019. The previously proposed bill focused on a cohort tuition model, where each incoming class would be locked into a single tuition rate for all four years, but the UW System described it as being too difficult to work.
The regents have not yet made any increase to tuition costs, partly relying on federal pandemic relief funds to prevent doing so. Gov. Evers’s recently proposed budget will leave the UW System nearly $130 million short of what the regents said they need to run their campuses over the next two years, despite a $305 million spending increase for the UW System.
When asked about the bill Tuesday, Evers said he supported keeping tuition “at a reasonable level.”
“I always feel that the university should have some independence because they are an independent group,” Evers said.
UW System President Jay Rothman announced to the Assembly’s Committee on Colleges and Universities Thursday that he will seek a five percent increase in tuition costs beginning during the 2023-24 academic year. Rothman plans to ask for the Board of Regents’ approval during their next meeting later this month.
Current tuition costs fluctuate among universities within the UW System, estimated to range from $5,174 at UW-Green Bay’s Marinette campus to $10,798 at UW-Madison. These costs do not take into account housing, books, meals, transportation or other student needs.
“Commitment to stewardship is a core value of the UW System,” said Rothman in a Twitter thread Thursday. “As we are increasingly tuition-dependent, a decade-long tuition freeze is not sustainable to make the investments students deserve and parents expect.”
The tuition increase is estimated to raise about $38 million annually, according to Rothman. The majority of the funds would be used to cover four percent of system pay increases over the next two years.
Following Rothman’s announcement, Murphy said he “didn’t really anticipate that five percent was going to be under the rate of inflation.” As of Feb. 14, the Consumer Price Index is set at 6.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Rothman’s proposed tuition increase will be discussed at the next Board of Regents meeting, scheduled for March 30 and 31 at UW-Stout.