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Saturday, June 15, 2024
Students pictured walking toward the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Memorial Union on November 11, 2023.

UW-Madison students voice affordability concerns ahead of likely tuition increase

Some UW-Madison students worry increased tuition could exacerbate wider affordability concerns and deter enrollment as the UW Board of Regents is set to vote on an increase on April 4.

With the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents set to vote on a tuition increase Thursday, some UW-Madison students said they hope the increase will increase academic support, though they worried it could exacerbate wider affordability concerns and deter enrollment. 

The 3.75% systemwide increase mirrors inflation, UW System President Jay Rothman said on March 28. It would increase UW-Madison’s tuition for in-state students from $11,216 to $11,604 and would be the second straight year of increased tuition. 

The potential increase comes alongside cost of living concerns in an increasingly constrained Madison housing market. Nationally, gaps between college affordability and a 66% student loan debt increase over the past decade play heavily into families’ decisions on where to send their children to college. Statistics from the nonpartisan Institute for Higher Education Policy show economic concerns are elevated for nonwhite students.

Some UW-Madison students supported the tuition increase, saying they believe it will benefit students by maintaining the school’s academic quality and funding new buildings.

“I think it’s fair if it’s necessary to keep up the quality of education students are getting and opportunities students are getting,” said UW-Madison junior April Krumpos. She added greater opportunities for scholarships should come alongside the increase. 

UW-Madison engineering student Mekhi Ott also supported the tuition increase. He believed UW-Madison could use the money in valuable ways, like building a new engineering building. The engineering building project is currently funded by a mix of state money and private donations.

But some students were more critical, saying the tuition increase could hurt affordability or hamper enrollment.

“I’m not a fan of the idea,” UW-Madison sophomore Laura Bush said. “I think affordable tuition is important, and I don’t want my tuition to increase.”

Students also had questions about how the money would be spent. 

“While yes, it may be to cover inflation, is that extra money going to make sure we get a quality education, or is it going elsewhere?” asked UW-Madison sophomore Jordan Gross. 

Another UW-Madison sophomore, Lauryn Wimmer, worried the increase might discourage some students from attending.

“I’m not in favor because I think it’ll deter students, especially first- generation students, from getting a college degree,” Wimmer said.

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Ott, who supported the tuition increase, had similar concerns regarding other UW System schools, saying increasing tuition could lead to students pursuing different career paths. 

Low-income students represented 15.1% of UW-Madison’s student body in the 2022-23 academic year, compared to 22.4% across the UW System.

Though Krumpos said she understands why the tuition increase has been proposed, she maintained that UW-Madison’s current tuition is already unaffordable for many.

“I know many students that decided not to go here, not because of what it has to offer, but because of its cost,” Krumpos said.

Bush echoed this sentiment, saying that programs such as Bucky’s Tuition Promise and Bucky’s Pell Pathway — which fully covers the cost of attendance for eligible undergraduates — help make tuition affordable, but said many in-state students don’t have the scholarship and struggle to pay tuition.

A 2022 review found UW System schools were the most affordable in the Midwest, according to the press release. Rothman said the preemptive announcement was made to give students and parents time to plan and encouraged students to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. 

If approved Thursday, the tuition increase will take effect at the start of the Fall 2024 semester.

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