Monday, April 21, 2014

Are UW-L Demographics Shifting with Increased Tuition?, by Bryan Hall

          La Crosse may be less diverse than comparable universities, but there does not appear to be a direct link between the lack of assorted demographics and its tuition prices. Marquette and Madison both charge a much higher tuition, but also enjoy a diverse student base. It seems that students of all races and economic backgrounds base their school choice more on factors like academic standing and university size than the price of tuition.
Some wonder if rising costs have phased out different ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender groups from attending UW La Crosse. Looking at the demographic portraits of UW-L, the Flagship University of Wisconsin Madison, and the private Marquette University, the slight comparative lack of diversity at UW-L appears a product of outside factors, and not a result of increased tuition.
The gender breakdown of UW-L students shows 44% men, and 56% women. This varies slightly from Madison’s figure of 51% women and Marquette University at 54% women. UW-L does have a larger discrepancy between the two genders, but there does not appear to be a correlation between these figures and UW-L tuition, which is significantly lower than the Marquette or Madison.
University size and the variety of courses offered can be a factor in attracting students to a school, but students are also evaluating the long term benefits of their degrees. Based on a 20 year figure of the average in field salaries against the cost of a degree by PayScale, La Crosse has an 8.6% return on investment, slightly higher than Madison at 8.2% and significantly higher than Marquette at 5.1% The cost of a degree from UW-L will bring in a wide variety of students looking to get the best long term value from their education.
The difference in demographics is more evident in ethnic benchmarks. 89% of UW-L Students are white, a figure higher than the rates for Madison and Marquette at 76% and 84% respectively. While UW-L is less diverse than these other Midwest schools, this evidence does not support the result. If increased tuition was the source for an exodus of minority students, UW-L would have more students of color than these schools with much higher tuition rates.
The size and geographic location of these schools is a more effective determinant of their diversity. UW Madison and Marquette University are located in much larger cities than La Crosse, and as a result have a much larger minority population. The city of La Crosse had a population of 54,647 as of 2012. This figure is less than 10% of Milwaukee, and just over 20% of Madison. Larger cities will inevitably attract a more wide spread of student backgrounds and ethnicities.
Economic standing will also play a large role in determining the demographics of a university. 23% of UW-L students are considered “low income.” This rate is higher than UW-Madison (16%), which has the lowest acceptance rate of the schools listed. It is, however, much lower than the 40% low income student percentage for Marquette.
 Marquette, as a private institution, is highest for its low income student rates and tuition. But with ther private structure, it is able to offer a variety of scholarships to accommodate students who cannot afford study. UW-L is more affordable but not able to offer the same amount of scholarship opportunities.
Scott Walker has announced that UW tuition will be frozen at its current levels for the next two years. This will allow students to relax about these costs for the next few years after a long period of yearly 5.5% tuition rises. The yearly growth in tuition price has undoubtedly had a negative effect on students, forcing them to rely heavily on student loans and investments from their family. Financing of a college degree has changed drastically over this time; grads from the UW system face an average of $28,012 in student loan debt.