By Senator Howard Marklein
March 16, 2018
The Impact of Freezing Tuition
Students have saved $10,190 at UW Madison and $7,388 at UW Platteville
I have been proud to support a tuition freeze at the University of Wisconsin in the last three state budgets. Since the 2013-15 budget, in-state undergraduate tuition for students has not increased. We did this again in the 2015-17 budget and most recently in the 2017-19 state budgets.
As a member of the legislature’s CPA Caucus, I discovered that the UW had a cash surplus of $650 million at the end of the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. In a further examination of their books, we found that previous tuition increases had flowed into this surplus and not into classrooms or to faculty and staff, despite the astronomical, double-digit increases charged to students and their families. This was – and still is – unacceptable.
Prior to the freeze, students and their families were paying 16.5% in increased tuition costs from 2009-2013. According to the legislature’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), in the six years from 2007-08 through 2012-13, resident undergraduate tuition generally increased by 5.5% annually! This was – and still is – completely unreasonable. The UW System is a great asset for our state, but it needs to be affordable and a good financial steward. The tuition freeze was necessary to reset the UW’s focus on these priorities.
Last week, I asked the legislature’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) to analyze the savings for students and families since the tuition freeze began in the 2013-15 state budget. We have students in UW schools that have never attended without frozen tuition and I want them to know what it could have been like without the freezes over the last five years.
According to the LFB, if we had not frozen tuition and the tuition increase trends had continued over the last five years, tuition at UW Madison would have cost $10,190 more and $7,388 more at UW Platteville (and the other comprehensive campuses) per student. At the local UW Colleges, tuition would have cost $5,220 more and UW Milwaukee would have cost $8,891 more.
If the trend had continued, students and families would be faced with annual tuition of $12,786 at UW Madison and $9,270 at UW Platteville for the 2018-19 school year. Instead, tuition at UW Madison is approximately $9,273 and $6,723 at UW Platteville. This is a huge savings for students and families.
It is important to note that the tuition freeze has not created a financial burden for the UW system because all of the former increases were going directly into the $650 million slush fund. In fact, a further review of Wisconsin’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) shows that the UW continues to have a surplus. The CAFR is the only true representation of the financial position of the State of Wisconsin. You can access the full report here: https://doa.wi.gov/DEBFCapitalFinance/2017/2017_CAFR_Linked.pdf
Students and families deserve reasonable tuition at our state’s universities and we must be vigilant stewards of their investments and those of all taxpayers. Again, I am proud to have supported the tuition freeze at the UW and will continue to monitor this issue.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.