UW System students could see smaller tuition hikes

UW regents discuss proposed new 2-year budget

MADISON, Wis. - Students within the University of Wisconsin System have become accustomed to regular 5.5 percent tuition hikes, but they might be in line to see some relief.

The governor's proposed two-year budget includes $181 million in new taxpayer investments in the UW System. A UW System executive said the money could allow the board of regents to impose a smaller tuition increase than in previous years.

Freda Harris is the UW System's vice president for budget and planning. She said Thursday that students currently pay 70 percent of the cost of their education with the state making up the rest, and that officials are hoping to close that gap.

She said in the 1970s, the state paid 75 percent of the cost of education.

A UW System official said there's no evidence of fraud following the discovery that the UW System overpaid $33 million for health insurance premiums and pension contributions over the past two years.

UW System executive Michael Morgan told the board of regents Thursday that the investigation is ongoing, but there's nothing to suggest that any of the money ended up in secret bank accounts.

The overpayments were revealed following a recent routine audit by the state. The UW System has recovered all but about $12 million, and Morgan says efforts continue to recoup those dollars.

Morgan said changes are being implemented to prevent further overpayments. He said the System has also hired auditors to oversee the changes and to evaluate further shortcomings with the system.

The governor's latest budget proposal would allow for the sale of state property to help pay down the state's debt, but a University of Wisconsin System official said UW lands aren't likely at risk.

David Miller of the UW System's Capital Planning and Budget department said Thursday there's essentially no land to sell.

He told the UW System's board of regents that officials had actually considered selling property in the past to raise money in response to $20 million in budget cuts. He said only two properties were found, that would have brought in a mere $2.4 million.

He said other UW properties off campuses are generally restricted, such that any sale revenue would go to the original donor or a charitable fund, not the state.

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