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University of Wisconsin Regents OK Tuition Increases, Raise Request

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin System officials Thursday approved raising tuition for out-of-state, graduate and professional school students by hundreds of dollars at more than a half-dozen campuses as they grapple with a Republican-imposed freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition.

The plan calls for increases at UW-Eau Clare, UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stout and all the system’s two-year institutions beginning next fall. The increases range from $85 more per year for resident graduate students at La Crosse to thousands of dollars annually at UW-Madison.

That school’s plan includes raising annual nonresident undergraduate tuition from $31,523 to $35,523 by the fall of 2018, a 12 percent increase. Increases at UW-Madison’s professional schools will be even steeper.

A master’s degree in global real estate, which now costs $32,164 annually for nonresidents, will cost $43,280 by the fall of 2018, a 35 percent jump.

A year of medical school for Wisconsin residents will go from $28,650 to $34,478 by fall of 2018, a 20 percent increase; nonresidents will see the same 20 percent increase, from $38,546 to $46,387.

Wisconsin residents enrolled in the veterinary school will have to pay $29,626 per year by fall of 2018, a 36 percent jump; nonresident veterinary will face a 37 percent increase to $47,769 by then.

The campuses and system leaders contend they need the extra money in the face of the resident undergraduate freeze, which entered its fourth year this fall, and a $250 million cut Republicans imposed on the system in the current state budget. They also maintain the increases would bring nonresident rates more in line with peer institutions and dollars generated by the graduate increases will stay in those programs.

The plan marks the third round of nonresident and graduate tuition increases at La Crosse, Milwaukee and Stout and the second at UW-Madison since 2015.

The Board of Regents approved the increases on a voice vote. Discussion lasted less than 15 minutes. Regents Bryan Steil and James Langnes, a UW-Whitewater student, were the only dissenters. Steil said the increases were “too much, too fast.”

System President Ray Cross and regents President Regina Millner countered that the increases represent an investment in the system’s future and UW-Madison’s professional schools are the only such public schools in the state and are crucial to providing doctors, veterinarians and lawyers for Wisconsin.

Raising nonresident and graduate tuition risks alienating those students and losing them to other schools. But system officials said in a memo to regents that schools aren’t concerned about losing those students because the rates are still competitive with peer institutions. A preliminary system report shows the overall number of nonresident freshmen fall enrollments has increased since the 2013-14 academic year.

Messages left for Rep. Dave Murphy and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, the Republican chairs of the Assembly and Senate universities committees, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the increases.

A spokesman for Associated Students of Madison, UW-Madison’s student government, didn’t immediately respond to an email message. The UW Medical Students Association also didn’t immediately respond to an email.

The regents this fall approved a separate plan to keep undergraduate resident tuition flat for 2017-18 and raise it by no more than the rate of inflation the following year if Republicans lift the freeze. GOP Gov. Scott Walker has said he wants to continue the freeze for at least one more year but hasn’t committed beyond that.

The regents on Thursday also unanimously approved seeking an additional $78 million from the legislature to bulk up employee raises over the next two years.

System leaders argued in a memo to the board that other public universities’ salary increases have been outstripping the UW System. UW-Madison’s faculty salaries, for example, were 18 percent lower than peer faculty elsewhere after adjustments for geographic costs of living in fiscal year 2014-15, the memo said.

The vote sends the request to the legislature’s employment relations committee.

The request comes on top of the system’s request for an additional $42.5 million in state aid in the next state budget.

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