Wisconsin ranks 41st in the nation for total revenues going to higher education, according to a new report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. It shows the state ranks last in the Midwest.
The study shows that between 2000 and 2019, adjusted state and local tax appropriations per college student dropped from $10,333 to $6,846, which was 16.5 percent below last year’s national average of $8,196.
Between 2011 and 2019, the report shows state and local revenues dropped at the sixth-highest rate in the nation.
For the UW System, full-time enrollments have dropped by an average of 8.4 percent since a peak of 142,907 in 2010. Enrollments at the state’s two-year colleges fell by more than 47 percent between 2011 and 2019. Last year, two-year UW campuses in Baraboo, Barron County, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marshfield, Richland Center and Sheboygan each enrolled fewer than 300 students.
The report also noted enrollment at the state’s technical colleges has fallen by 22.5 percent since peaking in 2011.
The balance between funding sources is a policy decision. What has happened here is that the UW System has driven up spending despite declining enrollment. State and local lawmakers resisted maintaining the taxpayers’ commitment to the spending and the percentage share declined. For some numbers:
In the 2010-11 operating budget, the UW System spent $5.591 billion to educate 178,909 students. That’s $31,251 per student.
In the 2018-19 operating budget, the UW System spent $6.349 billion to educate 164,494 students. That’s $38,597 per student.
If you want to claim inflation… nope. $31,251 in 2010 inflation-adjusts to $35,988 in 2018. UW is still spending $2,609 more per student for no rational reason at all.
The problem here is just that the UW System spends far too much. They can increase the percentage of public support by just lowering their overall spending. But they won’t… because it’s not about the share of public support. It’s simply about the fact that they want even more money to waste.