Governor’s budget would cut UW tuition 5 percent, give UW $104M

UW president appreciates Walker budget

Gov. Scott Walker’s executive budget would hand the University of Wisconsin System more than $100 million in new state aid. He also wants to cut University of Wisconsin System tuition by 5 percent, let students opt out of paying some fees and grant the system’s request for additional state aid.

The governor made the announcement at UW-La Crosse on Tuesday. He said the budget he releases Wednesday will cut resident undergraduate tuition by 5 percent, saving students an average of $360 per year. He’ll make up the lost revenue by giving the system a $35 million grant. Students will be allowed to opt out of fees that support student activities.

“It’s something we heard time and time again from students in college, from high school students and others, from families and others saying they were very concerned about the cost of higher education and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t out of the reach of people,” Walker told reporters.

The budget also provides the $42.5 million in new state aid that system leaders wanted after weathering a $250 million cut in the last budget. The money will be tied to meeting performance standards.

“We believe that there’s an interest not only for me and the Legislature but from people across the state to invest more into the University of Wisconsin System but in turn, a sense that we want to make sure it’s going into these high demand areas,” Walker said.

Walker released highlights of the UW System’s portion of his budget Tuesday. The spending plan calls for providing the system $42.5 million that would hinge on schools meeting performance standards and $11.6 million to bolster employee compensation. That’s on top of $50 million in new state aid.

The additional money marks an about face for Walker, who proposed cutting the system by $300 million in his 2015-17 executive budget. The Legislature shrank the cut to $250 million but system officials have been struggling to absorb the reduction for the last two years.

UW president appreciates Walker budget

The University of Wisconsin System’s leader is thanking Gov. Scott Walker for recognizing how important the system is in his executive budget.

UW System President Ray Cross issued a two-paragraph statement Tuesday saying the system appreciates Walker recognizing that the system plays a key role in the state’s economy and workforce. He said the budget reflects many of the system’s priorities and system leaders look forward to working with Walker and lawmakers in the coming months.

In an interview in La Crosse, Cross said he still needed to look at the details of some policy items.

“Some of these issues concern me a little bit and we’ll probably debate them and how we best do that and we’ll do that with the legislature as well as the governor’s office,” Cross said. “But overall this is a very positive thing for Wisconsin and for the university.”

Assembly speaker doesn’t like tuition cut plan

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he’s not onboard with Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to cut University of Wisconsin System tuition.

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer said in an email to The Associated Press that Vos favors keeping tuition where it is and instead ensuring there’s adequate financial aid.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday that he’s not hearing any great excitement for cutting tuition. His spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email Tuesday.

Democrats also said they continued to have concerns about the details that may be included in the budget.

“A lot of us on both sides of the aisle are actually wondering where that money is coming from,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “We do have a surplus but its not huge, a lot of it is one time money and its not because the economy in Wisconsin is taking off and we’re growing leaps and bounds because we’re not. There are those of us wondering where the money is coming from which is why I think the republican leadership is somewhat skeptical on this.”

UW student government laments fee opt-out

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s student government arm is none too pleased with Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to let students opt out of paying certain fees.

UW System students pay fees that support student organizations as well as university operations. Walker announced Tuesday that his executive budget would allow students to opt out of paying fees to organizations, saying the move would give students a say in what they want to support.

Associated Students of Madison, UW-Madison’s student government body, collects and divvies out fees to organizations. It also uses fees to buy students bus passes, bring events to campus and fund student radio and a rape crisis center.

ASM issued a statement saying Walker’s proposal undermines students’ authority to distribute their own fees. ASM said the opt-out could especially hurt the 68 percent of UW-Madison students who rely on bus transportation.