Monday, April 14, 2014

Series about University Budget Situation Begins Tomorrow

               There is another two-year “tuition freeze” proposed, by Governor Scott Walker, for budget discussion beginning next year.  There is an election for governor later this year.  The background of budget situation for students, families and university staff could be relevant to discussions, especially during an election cycle.

                The overall budget situation for UWL stakeholders is average, by both state and national comparisons, according to research by students in the News Reporting and Editing class, Spring 2014. Their individual stories will be published daily, beginning Tuesday, April 15, on The Mercury, the on-line daily news site for the class.

                “Average” means tuition charges, compared to state subsidy, are significantly higher over recent decades and a series of budget cuts, while student debt is increasing.

This is the national trend since the early 1970s, though somewhat accelerated by the Great Recession, and probably unlikely to change. 

Specific findings include the following:

- cutting state support for higher education has been incremental since the early 1970s, with students paying the higher proportion even before the recession
- UWL tuition & fees (excluding room/board) is slightly over average among state campuses, slightly over its peer masters-granting universities, and less than the national average, including “flagship” campuses
- since the mid-1970s, tuition has risen approximately 800%, faculty salaries about 350%
- 71% of UWL undergrads have debt at graduation, approximately $26,000 each
- paying for college is no longer out-of-pocket for families but requires loans and other resources, including financial aid and employment
- total cost, including residence, food, & fees for non-academic activities, roughly doubles the tuition charges and becomes part of student debt
- student fees can increase during a “tuition freeze,” especially by consent (vote) of student body
- construction of academic facilities is not included in university budget;  residence halls, recreation and student centers are entirely student-paid but remain property of the state and can be sold or privatized

- UWL does not have a large percentage of “low income” students but also offers fairly modest scholarship awards