(The Center Square) – More University of Wisconsin students are graduating on time and with less student debt, but a new report on the UW System’s tuition freeze says the university itself is becoming less competitive.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum released its study Tuesday.
The report looks at the impact Wisconsin’s freeze on tuition has had on the UW System.
The report’s headline says university funding is “lagging,” and that the university is not as “competitive.”
“The University of Wisconsin System and its flagship are falling behind their peers in key financial metrics, as a tuition freeze, declining enrollment, stagnant state funding, and lackluster growth in research spending threaten their long-term competitiveness,” the Policy Forum said in its study.
The report looks at the impact of the 2013 tuition freeze which has kept tuition at UW-Madison at a little over $10,000 for Wisconsin high school graduates.
“From 2013 to 2020 – the years for the tuition freeze – UW-Madison had the third-lowest in-state undergraduate tuition and fee increase among 35 peer public research universities and also had the largest cut in state support from 2013 to 2018,” the report noted.
But the Policy Forum also said while tuition has remained low, the university’s other financials have remained low as well.
“The state’s ranking for adjusted total revenues from state and local funding as well as net tuition fell from 24th-highest nationally and close to the middle of the pack in the Midwest in 2000 to 41st-lowest nationally and last in the Midwest in 2019,” the authors wrote. “Research and development spending at UW-Madison fell from third-highest in the nation in 2010 to eighth-highest in 2018 as the increase in university spending was outpaced by other institutions.”
The report does note the benefit of keeping costs low for UW students, including a jump in graduations among all students and a lower student debt burden.
The Policy Forum doesn’t make any recommendations in its report, but a group called Badgers United used the report to make some suggestions of their own.
“The UW-System has fallen through the cracks of the state budget, and troubling signs are starting to show,” the group wrote in its reaction to the Policy Forum report. “The future of our university is in danger, and it is time for our leaders to get us back on track by increasing financial support for UW-Madison.”
Badgers United wants to end the tuition freeze, increase spending on campus for new buildings and projects, and allow the University of Wisconsin to borrow as much as $1 billion to help get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic lawmakers in Madison are also on board with ending the tuition freeze and spending more at the university.
“As a state, we have to decide whether we’re OK with continuing to starve our universities in order to keep tuition artificially low, or if we want to invest in our future while providing support to families that need it,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Tuesday.
Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers have said in the past that the tuition freeze is helping Wisconsin students attend the University of Wisconsin, and that is a good thing.
Lawmakers will hear requests from the university, and others, when they begin crafting a new state budget after the first of the year.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.