Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Is it Working for Public University Students and their Families?
College students have felt the impact of recent changes in Wisconsin. Students at UW-Madison, students at the UW-Marathon County, students from all across Wisconsin, big and small colleges, have seen an increase in the number of students in their classes, and a decrease in the amount of time spent with professors. College students have a much harder time graduating in four or five years because they often can’t get into some of the required classes for their degree program. They end up attending for more semesters and paying more tuition.
Wisconsin families with students in college are seeing an increase in the cost of attending and a drop in the quality of the education they are receiving. Our students deserve the best quality education, and Wisconsin, as a state, needs it. The way to get jobs, businesses, and industry to Wisconsin is to produce—-and retain--more college graduates. More college graduates in Wisconsin means more small business owners and innovators on Main Street. It also means more companies and industries coming to Wisconsin to gain access to something many other states can’t offer: a whole bunch of smart university graduates to answer the world’s questions and build a better mouse trap.
The University of Wisconsin System took a $250 million dollar cut in state funding last year, and was forced to raise tuition to help cover it. Tuition has gone up by approximately 10% a year over the last decade because of shrinking state investment. By raising tuition last year, the UW System was able to cover about 30% of the budget cut, or $75 million dollars. The rest had to come out of the classroom and out of student support services. What are student support services? Here are just a few examples: the “Upward Bound” program, which helps students transition successfully from high school to college, focusing on at-risk and first generation students; the “work-study” program that funds students working on campus to help pay their way through school; and financial aid that was frozen at last year’s level as the cost of college rises.
These cuts didn’t come by “tightening our belts"; they came out of our students’ educational opportunities. It’s time to ask the legislature to work together and invest in the students of Wisconsin. As Analiese Eicher, United Council of UW Students government relations director, said, “Education is an investment that has always paid dividends to the state of Wisconsin with a documented rate of every one dollar invested producing nine dollars of economic activity.”
Last year’s 5.5% tuition increase—which will likely be followed by a similar increase this year-- hits students' pocketbooks hard. That translates to an increase of about $1,310 dollars at UW-Madison, and $740 for UW-Stevens Point. Faced with the choice between paying tuition or paying the rent, a lot of students feel hopeless. Studies show that every $1,000 increase in tuition results in a 6% decrease in enrollment, meaning that when tuition goes up, students drop out.
The verdict: It’s not working for Wisconsin’s college students and their families. It’s time to support better opportunities for our students and a more prosperous future for our state.
--Matthew Guidry, United Council of UW Students
Note: This is one in a series of blog posts providing perspectives on some of the state policy changes and fiscal decisions made during the past legislative session, and the impact they are having on Wisconsin’s children and families. We hope the public will consider these impacts and will urge candidates to talk more about these issues as elections approach. The views expressed in each post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of WCCF or the opinions of authors of any of the other posts.