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1149, 08 Oct 15

UW Madison Wants to Lift Enrollment Cap for Out-of-State Students


Flagship universities across the country for years have been backfilling lost state funding by boosting the number of higher paying students they accept — and aggressively recruit — from other states and countries.

Out-of-state and international students now make up at least 40% of the freshman class at flagship universities in 18 states — up from 10 states in 2000, according to Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program who questions whether public universities are becoming bastions of privilege.

hThe University of Wisconsin-Madison hopes to boost its numbers if a proposal to lift its 27.5% cap on nonresident undergraduate enrollment through 2020 gains approval from a UW System Board of Regents committee Thursday, and the full board Friday.

The proposal, which UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says could help boost the state’s workforce along with the flagship’s bottom line, would still guarantee at least 3,500 seats to Wisconsin freshmen each year. That guarantee already is in place, and freshman classes have included more than 3,600 Wisconsin residents each of the past three years.

This is a pretty simple issue, but it is directly linked to the mission of the university. UW wants to lift the cap because they want more money. Out-of-state students pay the full freight and UW makes a bundle on them. The noise from Blank about it “boost(ing) the state’s workforce” is political cover because the vast majority of these kids leave the state after graduation.

The problem is that the more seats that are opened up for out-of-state students, the more in-state students will be squeezed out of the state’s flagship university. That detracts from the mission of a state university to serve Wisconsin’s kids.

So this question is not really about the cap on out-of-state students. It’s about the mission of UW Madison. If we want UW Madison’s focus to be on being the research and economic engine that it has become, then lifting the cap makes sense. If we want UW Madison to be a top-notch educational choice for as many Wisconsin citizens as possible, the lifting the cap would erode that mission.


1149, 08 October 2015


  1. SteveAustin

    The article author, Karen Herzog was nice enough to have a lengthy twitter exchange with me tonight (shameless plug @steveaustinWI ). I asked if she would consider doing an article on how the following have changed at UW Madison over the last 30 years.

    Tuition level year by year
    Percentage of WI students
    Percentage of foreign students

    For those of you not familar, there is a massive demand for slots in US schools (both high school and college) by foreign students. Schools are bringing these students over in droves because they pay premium tuition. It is being used by these schools to “make budget” but in the process we are removing slots for US or in this case WI students.

    I think the whole thing stinks. And rather than reform higher ed so that costs are contained and teachers actually teach classes, we will see UW shut out more WI students in favor of foreign students who are the cash cow. Once again our government institutions and businesses serve their bottom line versus serving US citizen taxpayers.

  2. Owen

    I agree with you, Steve. Our public universities’ mission should be, first and foremost, to educate and improve the lives of the citizens who fund them. And it’s not just about the state funding. The taxpayers extend an enormous amount support in the form of land, carve-out provisions in the law, tax exemptions, etc. All of that is fine as long as the university is fulfilling its obligations to the citizens. If UW wants to make more money and be an international destination, then that’s fine too, but then they need to go private and forgo taxpayer support.

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