Friday, February 27, 2015

Origin of The Walker Tuition Freeze

By Jonathan Cook, Courtney Brusoe, Zeyao Wu, Jingyu Liang

The Walker administration pushed for an extension of the tuition freeze in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Walker tuition freeze is a restriction in the amount a UW school can charge an undergraduate student as well as a freeze of the tax support from the state. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (jsonline.com) the reduction in revenue is estimated at $210 million across the two year freeze, accounting for a loss of $181 million in state tax support and $28 million from tuition if UW schools increased their tuition only 2% per year.

The tuition freeze legislation came as a response to a 2012 audit that found large sums of money in the unrestricted budget of UW schools. Many within the state legislature believed the large sums of money to be a malpractice that caused undergraduate students to pay more than they should, so they passed the freeze in tuition and a freeze in state funding as a reaction. $648 million was found across hundreds of accounts in unrestricted cash balances across all UW schools. The UW system claimed the majority of that balance, $441.2 million, was already planned to be used, leaving $207 million in reserve.


While “unrestricted” suggests that the fund was extra money, the balance is viewed as a savings account to cushion the blow against decreased enrollment or emergencies. The forced cap in revenue has caused many UW schools to use their savings to maintain normal functions and to pay their faculty without making deep budget cuts.

Joe Gow, Chancellor of UW – La Crosse said, “86% of the UW-L budget is to pay faculty members. If schools have a cap in revenue, they are not as competitive in recruiting top professors and not as able to maintain the highly trained staff they already have.”

Two years after the beginning of the tuition freeze, the UW school system released a 250 page budget report. This time, the system was much more transparent about where the unrestricted budget money is and what it is for. According to the report, $973 million is classified as unrestricted, but $798 million is planned for specific expenses like construction projects or new equipment. Of the remaining balance, $111 million is classified as emergency use and $64 million as discretionary. The discretionary account is less than half of what was found after the 2012 audit. The emergency fund accounts for around 3% of the total $6 billion UW budget.


The original legislation pertaining to the tuition was for two years. Therefore, if the state legislature does not renew the law the tuition freeze is scheduled to end at the end of the current 2014-2015 school year. Scott Walker and his administration was reelected for another term on a platform that includes an extension of the tuition freeze.

Many students think the tuition freeze is necessary in order to afford college. Kelsey Pierce who studied Therapeutic Recreation at UW-L, said, “I live in great pressure this semester, because I have to work three nights a week from 5:30pm to 11:59 pm, and on Sunday sometimes to earn money for my tuition. Tuition is high for me because my parents don’t pay for me. I know that they [the university] will increase tuition to maintain the quality of the university in the future, I just want them increase it within the reasonable range so I can afford it.”

Another UW-L student, Katie Faster thought that the tuition freeze was a good policy to help students graduate. “I am a lucky person,” Faster said. “My grandparents help me pay a part of tuition. Some students’ families have the ability to pay tuition, but their parents don’t pay for their children. These students cannot get financial support because of their parents’ income. It is terrible for them.” Faster really encourages tuition freeze practices on campus. Yet, Faster said, “Some of them might not have enough money to pay for faculty salary and new campus buildings because the state cut the funding.”

While a two year freeze in tuition was manageable by many universities, a further extension could be problematic. According to a 2014 UW report, some schools like UW - Superior and UW - Milwaukee are reduced to a very small savings account. UW - Superior specifically is $1.9 million in debt. UW - Milwaukee is reduced to only $1 million in reserves.

According to Chancellor Gow, “Tuition freeze is a popular topic, but providing students with a quality education is hard to provide with a frozen tuition. When the frozen tuition is ended, it will likely increase significantly to help make up for the loss.”

While the tuition freeze may sound good to current and future undergraduate students, many students admit that they don’t really understand the repercussions of the freeze on the universities.

Senior UW-L students Aimee Goodew, Amber Rodriguez, and Hannah Bartelt acknowledged that they didn’t know much about the tuition freeze. However, after becoming more aware of the negative impact on universities, the popular response of interviewees was that while they didn’t want tuition to rise, they still thought it was important for universities to maintain adequate reserves for unexpected projects and maintaining the university.

“Since I was here during the Drake fire, I know that emergency stuff like that does happen, so it is important for the university to have reserves for situations like that. I would like the tuition to be kept frozen, but I still think it’s important to have those reserves,” Goodew stated.

Similarly, Rodriguez agreed saying, “From a student’s perspective I like it [the tuition freeze] because it costs an arm and a leg to go to college. Most people can’t afford to go without taking loans. From a university perspective, it lowers the chance for a university to compete if something goes wrong--there will be no money to fix anything.”

Bartelt added, “I think the tuition freeze is good but there should be a plan for the future. That money in the unrestricted funds should be used for its original purpose, not to make up for the loss in tuition. And what’s going to happen when that unrestricted money runs out? What will the university do then?”

University officials say it is important to remember that paying tuition is more than a cost of going to school. A lot of times the tuition that is paid is for expanding university function and investing in the university’s future. Chancellor Gow said, “We [UW schools] are a not-for-profit entity. We want to increase the tuition to provide a better experience for our students.”


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Powdered Alcohol Coming? by Megan Sukovich


“Palcohol,” powdered alcohol, has initially been approved for consumer use by the Food and Drug Administration. Similar to Gatorade or Ice Tea, the powder can be added to liquid, or showered on food, but also snorted to feel the full affects of an alcoholic beverage.

State Senator Tim Carpenter plans to introduce a bill to ban the sale of powdered alcohol in Wisconsin. Carpenter says, "The potential for abuse is simply unacceptable."

Criticism is coming from many substance abuse groups across the nation. "Like alcohol-laced energy drinks, this appears to be another attempt to market alcohol irresponsibly to young people. Add to this the fact that Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where the first OWI is not a crime, and you are mixing a dangerous cocktail with powered alcohol. It took several tragic deaths before alcohol laced energy drinks were pulled off the market. I don't think we need to wait for a similar tragedy and we should ban the powdered alcohol,” says Carpenter.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Wisconsin is the 8th highest in the nation per capita in alcohol consumption.

Palcohol.com states that, “A package of Palcohol is 4" x 6".... almost five times bigger than a 50ml bottle of liquid alcohol so Palcohol is much harder to conceal.” The site also states that it is not any more dangerous than liquid alcohol, but will be sold only to individuals 21 and up.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How universities affect the environment, by Sam Giunta


            Universities, while benefiting thousands of students in many ways, have a large impact on the environment and sometimes a bad one.
            Universities have a wide range of needs required to sustain the campus.  They need large supplies of energy, water and paper—these are the most prevalent environmentally impacting resources.
Students, teachers and faculty use about 900,000 tons of paper per year.  Though this is decreasing with the rise of technology, paper is still a staple on the college campus.  This aspect of universities’ effect on the environment is often overlooked because of what is thought to be a necessity for hard copies of any sort of writing or assignment.  To combat this use of paper, recycling is the main tool.  By recycling one ton of paper, seventeen trees can be saved and sixty pounds of air pollution can be avoided. 
A UW-L sophomore sees these environmental effects and argues, “there are some necessary things we do that aren’t the best for the environment, but paper use can be greatly reduced.  Teachers and students just have to be willing to trust in technology and go beyond the hard copy.”
Energy is also a large part of campuses’ environmental footprint.  Universities need energy to provide a number of services to students: food services, maintenance services, good lighting in classrooms and so on.  With the advancement of technology and its prevalence, an increasing amount of power is needed by universities, especially considering many students have their own technological devices.

Lastly, just as energy, water is widely used.  Water is not only needed for cleaning, personal use, drinking and other student related things, but campuses must also irrigate water to care for on campus green areas and sports fields that require water to preserve aesthetically pleasing looks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

College Students and Multiple Stress, by Stella Nathan


Consulting many different lists of top stressors for college students, and asking different sources, the results will be varied.  But finance always showed up somewhere on these lists and was always near the top.

Many college students are worried about debt and the cost of college. They are also worried about the job market. On BusinessTime’s list of top stressors for college students, four of the five stressors were related to money. Students needing to repay loans, the cost of education, borrowing money for college, and needing to find a job after college were the most stressful things.

Other lists said that roommate conflicts, relationships, time management, and family responsibilities were contributors. A UWL counsellor can attest to that: she says that students at UWL also stress over academics, depression, anxiety, family-related issues, other non-family relationship issues, or finances.  

A number of students on campus at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse said that they felt pressure to succeed. Some said that they felt pressure from their parents to be perfect, and others said that they just put it on themselves to be perfect.

Jason Ebbeling, director of residential education at Southern Oregon University, says that “These days, students worry that even with a college degree they won’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage, so even at 15 or 16 they’re thinking they’ll need to get into an M.B.A. program or Ph.D. program.”

Freshmen in college and 5th year or beyond college students have the most stress, but for different reasons. 5th year students worry about increasing debt as they continue their education. Freshmen stress over their new-found responsibilities in college.

One thing not prevalent in the past that contributes to the stress levels in college students is the unemployment of their parents. Students have to take out more loans and get summer jobs to help pay for living with their parents or save up for college, as parents can no longer support them.

Some students are ok at handling stress, but other students find that stress triggers mental health problems, some that they were not aware they had. Stress is linked to depression and anxiety in college students. In young adults (18-33) stress levels are higher than the national average, according to USAtoday. 39 percent of young adults say that over the last year their stress levels have increased. 52 percent of young adults report having trouble falling asleep.  Depression and anxiety is the most common mental health problem.  In the last 10 years, counselling and health services at campuses have seen an exponential rise in the number of students who need help, according to Theglobalandmail.

A counsellor at UWL says that from her own personal experience she’d say that 30 percent of students are using the counselling and testing services. She also says that anxiety is the number one pressing concern for students at UWL and she thinks that it is the same for other campuses.

Asking students at the end of spring semester which is more stressful, their answer would probably be the spring semester because they are in the moment of the stress. The results might be different if asked during winter finals. In spring students are moving out, having to worry about living arrangements, graduation and summer jobs on top of their finals.  A junior biology major at UWL says that the end of the year is the most stressful time for him. He says, “I’m dying. I just want school to be over. In the winter session you’ve still got energy, you’ve only been here a couple months, and the weather is nice in September, usually until October. But it was a horrible winter when we came back from break and it’s still cold in May!”

Another student who is a Junior English major at UWL says that she prefers the spring semester because the end goal is summer, and that all she has to do is write papers instead of take a bunch of exams.

A student who is graduating from UWL on Sunday says he prefers the winter session. He wishes there were more weeks for him to get everything done, and that he is worried about his future after college.  



Monday, May 19, 2014

La Crosse Bluff Hikes, by Danielle Cook


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            La Crosse residents have the unique opportunity to explore nature when the weather gets warmer and spring approaches western Wisconsin. The Myrick Hixon EcoPark provides a hub to many bluffland and marsh trails. Grandad Bluff Park is another popular location for visitors, offering a complete view of the city below, from La Crosse’s most famous bluff, part of the Hixon family gift to the city.

            The EcoPark is a collaborative nature reserve supported by community organizations such as the earlier Hixon Forest Nature Center, seven local Rotary Clubs and the City of La Crosse. In 2007, the Myrick Park Zoo was transformed into a community nature attraction designed to be environmentally friendly and teach visitors about La Crosse’s wildlife and natural landscape. The EcoPark has six suggested hiking paths, and bikes can also be ridden on some trails.

            Grandad Bluff Park was first made accessible to the public in 1912. It is celebrated for its spectacular vista of the city of La Crosse down below the bluffs, with an expansive view of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa from the top. Wisconsin Trails readers voted it “the most scenic view in the state.” Grandad Bluff is the largest bluff in the La Crosse area, with an elevation of 600 feet.

In April 2012, a renovation of Grandad Bluff Park was completed. The park itself has a shelter, coin-operated binoculars and picnic areas. The connected bluffs also have six trails suitable for hiking, trail running, or biking. In the winter, specific trails like the Medary Quarry or Welch Trail can be used for snowshoeing and skiing.
           
            “I love hiking the bluffs,” noted UW-L sophomore Dani Cox. “There are different trails you can take depending on how adventurous you want to be. No matter which one you choose, the view is always worth it!”


            Some trails close temporarily, for safety and to prevent damage during wet Spring and rainy weather.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thousands in Grandad Bluff Half Marathon & Other Races, by Danielle Cook


About 3500 La Crosse residents and visitors participated in the annual Festival Foods Grandad Bluff Half Marathon recently, a variety of events, including a relay, a 5K run and walk, Coulee Region bike tours, a running time trial, and free youth races held at the riverside.

“I was really nervous before the race,” explained Lexie Krueger, a UW-La Crosse sophomore in the half marathon. “When we sang the national anthem, though, it became real. The coolest part of the run was going down the bluffs, and then seeing the waterfront with everyone cheering you on at the end is the best feeling ever.”

Registration fees pay for permits and personnel who organize the event, with additional profits donated to charities including the St. Clare Health Mission, the La Crosse Youth Enrichment Association, and Special Recreation of La Crosse. The top three male and female participants in 5K run, half marathon, half marathon relay, and bluff challenge received special awards for their achievement. Awards ceremonies were held at the band shell in Riverside Park.

The event is funded by extensive sponsoring from local corporations, as well as the entry fee for registrants. The half marathon is capped at 3000 participants, who run and walk a course beginning at the top of Grandad Bluff and descending through bluff forests and residential neighborhoods. The race finishes at the banks of the Mississippi River downtown.


The event began in 2009, with the goal of celebrating La Crosse’s ambition to become America’s healthiest city. Annual partners include the City of La Crosse, Festival Foods, Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System, Altra Federal Credit Union, Ho-Chunk Nation, Smith’s Cycling & Fitness, and Advertising Concepts.