The University of Wisconsin votes for a 5.5% tuition hike, but lawmakers are discussing a 4% cap. So, which is it?

It's a 5 ½-percent increase. That's what UW System spokesman David Giroux says. In lieu of a state budget, the UW Board of Regents earlier this week voted to jack up tuition for the upcoming academic year, starting in September. Giroux says a tuition cap sounds good for students, but not if it means driving down the quality of their education.

"You can drive down tuition all you want but if the state doesn't drive up its share of the investment the quality will suffer, access will suffer, something has to give."

Wisconsin Democrats this week agreed with Republican lawmakers on the Legislative Conference Committee that a 4% tuition cap wasn't a bad idea, that is, as long as the state would give the UW System $120-million for the next two years. That didn't happen. Giroux says a tuition cap combined with a decline in financial support will cause something to collapse.

"So when the state backs off its commitment the only recourse to maintain quality is to put a greater portion of that burden on students. We do not want to do that. So the only people who can prevent that from happening are the people who hold the purse strings."

Giroux points out that UW-Madison has the 2nd lowest tuition in the big ten, providing a low-cost high-quality education system.

"If we can come up with a workable compact between the university and the state that holds tuition increases to the bare minimum while sustaining today's level of academic excellence, today's level of student services, that would be a win, win, win."

Although tuition is set for this year, Giroux says the 5.5% increase can be adjusted higher or lower as needed.

"If there is no cap but there are drastic reductions in state funding and the state imposes more costs on the university, tuition and fees can go up; if the state forces us to reduce tuition revenues, we can adjust that in the second semester or in subsequent years."

The Legislative Conference Committee is scheduled to return next week Thursday.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (2:15 MP3)

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