Tuition freeze fallout inevitable for UW-W students

Dec. 11, 2013

By Alexandria Zamecnik

Increasing financial burdens have been halted for students attending University of Wisconsin schools for the next two years, due to the tuition freeze; nevertheless, universities may inevitably suffer from the cuts in upcoming years.

While tuition freezes often create short-term advantages for students, it can create a lasting impact in the long-term. According to the UW-Systems Administration and Fiscal Affairs Vice-President, David Miller, these changes will create an ongoing structural shortfall of nearly $62 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

These costs would normally be funded from new tuition expenses. However, with the freeze in place, the system will have to reach into its reserves to make up for lost resources.

After the discovery of a $600 million surplus in the UW System, state legislators began working on a bill that would make it illegal for the Board of Regents to raise tuition.  The board is responsible for establishing policies and rules for governing the system.

Speaker of Wisconsin State Assembly, Robin Vos, said in his Speaker’s Briefing that there has been a pattern of disingenuous, or dishonest, behavior from UW System officials.

“Between 2002 and 2012, tuition went up 134 percent in for UW System students, more than at any other school in the Big Ten,” Vos said. “At a time when student loan debt is soaring, the UW System did their students a disservice by not being more responsible with the tuition dollars they had.”

During 2007-08 to 2012-13, the undergrad-tuiton rate increased steadily at a rate of 5.5 percent for nearly 181,000 students.

In agreement with the state biennial budget provisions, the Board of Regents passed the tuition freeze on July 11. The board included a provision to extend the tuition freeze to undergraduates that are non-residents and graduate students.

According to annual operating budget predictions, the surplus that was previously $600 million will dwindle down to $462 million by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

Although the tuition freeze will not affect segregated fees and housing increases, without the 5.5 percent increase, Wisconsin undergraduates will be saving more than $400. Out-of-state undergraduates will save approximately $800.

With the inclusion of the last minute provision from the Board of Regents, graduate students can expect to see money back in their pockets. Wisconsin graduate students will save around $500 and out-of-state students more than $900.

Whitewater graduate student and Business Administration MBA, Hunter Rojas, says the tuition freeze was positive when it was implemented, but it has its drawbacks.

“Going forward the tuition freeze is going to end and the university is going to have to compensate in order to provide students with the same quality of academics and service,” Rojas said. “If the freeze stays there will not be enough resources to sustain the campus.”

Rojas works with the Strategic Planning and Budget committee to discuss the logistics of the annual and biannual budget, discuss various initiatives and plans and other logistical topics related to the operation of the university.

“With those additional state revenues being no longer available to the system, the university will have to raise tuition or the university standards will drop,” Rojas said.

Even though the UW System will be facing shortfalls in the upcoming years, the UW-Whitewater campus is remaining optimistic. A good deal of discussion has been brought to the budget planning committee.

Budget Officer for UW-Whitewater, Aimee McCann, oversees the campus wide budget oversight and direction. McCann also serves as the Budget & Finance Chair on the Strategic Budget and Planning Committee.

“When we built our budget for this year, we did so without knowing if or what the tuition increase was going to be,” McCann said. “So when we planned for our budget for 13-14 and 14-15 [school year] we didn’t really plan for large tuition increase.”

If the tuition freeze continues, UW-Whitewater has reserves in place to make up for missing funds. These reserves are meant to cover emergencies. The campus would consider eating away at the funds until the freeze was put to a halt.

“I think time will tell what sort of impact this will have on us,” McCann said. “When we start to talk about tuition freezes on one hand it’s a benefit to the student to lower tuition rates, on the other hand, the longer it goes, the more difficult it is for the campus to do the things that the students want us to do.”

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