In his latest State of the State address, Governor Tony Evers announced a $25 million investment in the University of Wisconsin System, in order to continue funding the eight year tuition freeze through the end of the next two years. The Governor acknowledged the significant amount of financial stress students in Wisconsin’s higher education institutions face, along with the rising costs of groceries and gas. The goal of this investment is to endure tuition for in-state students in the the University of Wisconsin System will not go up for the next two years, in order to provide further relief for students and their families in Wisconsin while the state continues its recovery from the pandemic.
The tuition freeze originally started back in 2013, in order to limit undergraduate tuition increases and address concerns about rising tuition costs within the UW System. The freeze followed public outcry over the rapid increase in undergraduate tuition at state institutions between 2001 and 2011, which was putting more of a financial burden on students and their families.
Since then, tuition costs for in-state students have remained as they were back in 2013. For University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, this $25 million investment from state leadership is great newsin the goal to support the state’s higher institutions as they recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. However, Wisconsin’s higher education funding had been struggling for years before the pandemic, due to other factors.
According to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report, Wisconsin higher education institutions have been struggling with a lack of state funding from the Republican-majority legislatures, budget cuts, post-secondary enrollment declines that are exceeding the national average, limited control over tuition changes, all contributing to a loss of revenue. Another report from the Forum discusses the lack of financial aid the universities can provide to students, due to these constraints. The reports do lay out an array of options available to both lawmakers and the institutions to address these issues moving forward.
Wisconsin educators are concerned that what is also contributing to the lack of support and funding in the state’s education is the rising political polarization in the state legislature, and throughout the United States, that has public schools and higher education institutions in the line of political fire for Republican-majority legislatures. University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank in regards stated: “It can threaten the federal funding we rely on to do the kind of basic research that made the COVID vaccine possible, and it empowers politicians seeking to score points with voters to use our universities and especially flagship campuses as political chips in the partisan wars.”