July 29, 2014

JFC co-chairs discuss higher education

A big concern among students at the University of Wisconsin System is the cost of tuition. The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) says that’s a reasonable discussion to have, but at this point, they don’t have a position on a tuition cap.

As for giving the schools spending flexibility… “We just made some significant changes last time around to give the system more flexibility … so I would say let’s take some time … to give these changes an opportunity to bear fruit before we actually make wholesale changes again.”

Committee co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) appeared with Nygren at a WisPolitics luncheon Thursday, saying JFC doesn’t want to make false promises, like vowing to put a cap on tuition. “Because when you take the cap off, and then there would be double digit increases in two, three, four years. And I think that adds a lot of uncertainty.”

UW System President Kevin Reilly told the budget committee last week that the UW could see the lowest tuition increases in a decade under the governor’s budget proposal. Overall, the budget calls for $181 million funding in colleges, but Reilly says $153 million is already committed. Reilly said the added resources and flexibility provided in this budget gives the UW the tools it needs to serve the state.

Nygren also questions the need for more construction projects, considering the growth of online learning, suggesting money could be saved in that area.

Darling  notes UW tuition is among the lowest in the big ten universities. She also says there needs to be more emphasis on career development, to make sure students are paying for an education that would more likely lead them to a job.