Thursday, April 24, 2014

UWL Tuition Is "Middle of the Road," by Danielle Cook

            UW-La Crosse is participating in the nationwide tuition hikes. Recent statistics from the College Board organization explain that the university is, in fact, in the middle of the road for secondary education costs. On top of that, UW-L will be experiencing a two-year tuition freeze, perhaps four years.
            As a general figure, the increase in average in-state tuition nationwide is much less for the 2013-14 academic year than in past years. Students previously paid 4.5% more in 2012-13, and are now experiencing a small increase of 2.9%, the lowest percentage increase in the past 30 years. The median published tuition and fee cost for the 2013-14 school year is $11,093, including major research campuses. For flagship universities across the country, tuition rests at both financial extremes. At Penn State, tuition sits at $17,926 per semester, whereas Wyoming has the lowest tuition and fees, at $4,404. Currently, UW-L’s tuition is at $8,902 per semester. The estimated total cost for the average national campus is $16,584 for the 2013-14 year, with the average public Master’s in-state tuition and fees being $7,750.
The UW System has 181,000 students at 26 campuses throughout the state. Included in these 26 educational centers are 13 four-year universities. Comparing UW-L to the rest of the University of Wisconsin System, tuition and fees are just slightly higher in-state for UW-L. Excluding UW-Madison, the state average cost is $7,913, resulting in a difference of over ten percent between UW-L and the rest of Wisconsin. The state’s tuition and fees have grown on a typical scale. Over the past five years, the average in-state tuition and fees has increased at a rate of 25%.
UW-L freshman Alex Reina explained, “If college tuition continues to increase, my future plans for getting a good education may be jeopardized. I may not be able to pay for it if it goes too high, since my parents have a specific amount of money set aside for me. After that money is used up, paying for college is up to me personally.”
For in-state students at leading Ph.D.-granting universities in 19 states, tuition is actually lower than that for in-state students at UW-L. At the University of Oklahoma, tuition is currently at $8,705.50, with the next highest other than UW-L being the University of Maryland at $8,909. UW-L falls between the two. The University of Wyoming boasts the lowest in-state tuition out of the flagship universities. For a full year, two semesters of school, students paid a mere $4,278 in 2012-2013. In comparison, UW-L students were required to pay $4,377 for only one semester of education. In the 2013-14 school year, the University of Wyoming’s tuition rose just slightly, to $4,404 in-state. Penn State University has the highest in-state tuition per semester, with tuition and fees amounting to $17,266 per semester.
Ranked nationally, the UW System holds the 21st highest tuition, placing it in the more expensive 50% of the U.S. Wyoming, as expected, has the lowest average tuition and fees for in-state students. In Wyoming, the average tuition is $2,432 per semester. To put that number in perspective, the yearly average tuition for Wyoming amounts to less than $300 over half of UW-L’s cost per semester. New Hampshire has the highest average tuition and fees in-state, with the average student paying $14,576.
With UW System tuition frozen, universities are beginning to consider how student costs will be rearranged to accommodate the lack of funds. Universities are not going to neglect to ensure they can maintain daily standards of education. Therefore, cost shifts will occur throughout the system, since one form of funding for schools will be no longer available to increase. For example, increases could occur in housing, food, and other areas, all out of the realm of the statewide tuition freeze. Students’ tuition may not go up, but that does not mean other categories of funding will stop their increasing trend.
Junior Hannah McLean also noted, “My personal concern is having to take out loans for tuition, since it’s not my out-of-pocket money. After I graduate, I’m going to have to pay that back, with interest, which can really add up.”

Although a tuition freeze may appear to help students avoid rising tuition costs, money will still be siphoned from them to go towards other necessary functions of campus. However, with Wisconsin and specifically UW-L’s tuition and fees resting in the middle of two extremes – high and low tuition bills, paying for college is still a burden that students everywhere face and is not likely to be minimized any time soon.