Tag Archives: University of Wisconsin System

UW Regents Moving Ahead with Free Speech Rules

I’m skeptical.

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has approved the scope of proposed new rules aimed at punishing students who disrupt free speech on campus. But just after the vote was taken, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers said he continues to oppose the rules.

The governor’s opinion matters because any rule change proposed by the UW System cannot go into effect without his support.

The Friday vote was largely procedural in nature. It allows the UW System to work on what is called a “scope statement” that sets punishments for students caught repeatedly disrupting the free speech or freedom of expression of campus speakers or fellow students. Under the proposed language, a student disrupting free speech on two occasions would have to be suspended. If there was another disruption from the student, they would face mandatory expulsion.

The board and UW System have been working on the policy since 2017. The regent’s policy on “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression” was introduced shortly after state Republican lawmakers introduced legislation with similar provisions. Before the matter was put to a vote, Regents President Drew Petersen announced support for moving the process forward.

The issue is important. Too many college campuses have become outright hostile to speech that deviates from modern liberal orthodoxy. Anyone who offers contrary opinions are shouted down and denied access. But regulating free speech with set punishments is a tricky business. At the heart of any regulation is, “who decides?” Who decides what constitutes a disruption vs. expressing a different opinion? Some cases are obvious – shouting down a speaker, for example – but what about a noticeable harrumph? What about being quiet but holding up a sign? Does it depend on what the sign says? Do the lefty administrators who are allowing conservatives to be shouted off campus now get to decide these things? Would this new policy just be used as a bludgeon against certain kinds of speakers? We have a cultural drift to intolerance and this rule might just weaponize one side.

I don’t envy the Regents. This is a tricky business. These issues are pregnant with nuances and context. It is very difficult to write a rule that encompasses the grey areas.

Stout’s New Digs

When you hear the UW System crying poor again, think of stuff like this and ask yourself, “did this improve education?”

A new fireplace in University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Merle M. Price Commons ties in the history of Dunn County with a gathering place for students.

The  10-foot-6-inch wide by 9-foot-6-inch tall natural gas fireplace is built from Dunnville sandstone, a creamy stone from the Downsville area just south of Menomonie.


Thirty-five sandstone pieces make up the fireplace, weighing in at about four tons. The hearthstone weighs 1,300 pounds.

The fireplace was built by R. J. Jurowski of Whitehall. The blocks were cut by Coldspring out of Cold Spring, Minn. It took workers about a week in August to build the fireplace, moving most of the pieces by hand and mortaring them into place.

“It’s difficult because sandstone is very fragile,” said Tim Abley, site superintendent for R.J. Jurowski.


Menomin Lounge will be open in mid- to late September, with other meeting rooms opening in mid-October. The work is part of an $8.5 million renovation of 19,000 square feet in the building, mostly the first floor and exterior.

Price Commons will also have meeting rooms named for area waterways including Elk Creek, Cranberry Creek, Gilbert Creek and two smaller meeting rooms named for the Hay River and the Eau Galle River, Witucki said.

Price Commons, built in 1967, also has new windows and sills. The new first floor features refurbished offices for the LGBTQ center, the Qube, which opened in April. There is a new main entrance on the east side as well as expanded entryways on all sides.

Legislature Gives UW Spending by $58 Million

But it’s never “enough,” of course. Here was one reaction from a spender:

“It’s beyond disappointing,” Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, told Republicans. “It’s perplexing. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s negligent. And what you’re guaranteeing is that campuses will close.”

GOOD. We all see the demographic trends and the declines in enrollment coming. We SHOULD be consolidating campuses. Throwing more money into a system to keep underutilized buildings open is not responsible budgeting.

UW Uses Federal Money to Pay off Loan


The University of Wisconsin System will use federal money to pay off bank loans taken out by the UW-Oshkosh Foundation, according to agreements released Friday.

The UW System paid $6.3 million to banks using federal money designated for administrative costs — meaning no state taxpayer money or tuition dollars, according to UW System spokeswoman Heather LaRoi. This money comes from reimbursements for administrative costs already incurred by the UW System related to federal grant activity at UW campuses.

At the close of fiscal year 2018, the UW System had about $9.5 million in federal money from this fund that had accrued over the last decade, according to LaRoi.

UW-Oshkosh will pay back the UW System $3.825 million in annual installments of $191,250 from January 2020 through July 2038, according to the agreement. The annual payments will be made with money from the Witzel biodigester, which turns organic waste into energy. The UW System Board of Regents assumed ownership of the biodigester along with the UW-Oshkosh Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.The payments related to the bankrupty case stem from a building projects controversy surrounding the university’s foundation, a nonprofit organization primarily funded through private donations and investments to help the university.

Remember that this is all because the former chancellor illegally backed loans by a private institution with taxpayer money. That private institution, the UW) Foundation, subsequently bought his house for way above market price. And in the end, who pays? The taxpayers. Meanwhile, take note that the UW System continues to horde slush funds.

This is also yet another example of how much of our money the federal government pisses away. Why in the world are they handing out millions to a university system for “administrative costs?”

Sloppy management practices in UW System invite abuse

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. I tried my best to make a very boring topic more interesting. You be the judge as to whether or not I succeeded. Here you go:

Last year the University of WisconsinOshkosh Foundation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after several suspicious and inappropriate transactions were discovered between the foundation, the university and its chancellor. The fallout from that mess is still being litigated in court. In response, the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) conducted a study of the relationships between UW institutions and 90 affiliated organizations. The results are disturbing.

First, let us recall what happened at UWO because it serves as an example of how bad things can get. The UW-O Foundation was purportedly dedicated to helping the university. Like many university foundations, it served as a booster club to raise money to help the university pay for things that were not covered in the budget.

Over several years, it was discovered UW-Oshkosh was funneling university money through the foundation for projects like a biodigester and a hotel. Meanwhile, the foundation bought the university’s chancellor’s house for about $120,000 more than the appraised value right before he retired to Florida. Even though millions of taxpayer dollars were involved, much of this happened with almost no oversight and little paperwork.

In response to these revelations, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee asked the LAB to evaluate the relationships between all UW institutions and their affiliated organizations. The scope of the evaluation included almost all UW universities and colleges and 90 affiliated organizations from fiscal year 2007-2008 through fiscal year 2016-2017.

What the study found is a mess of poor accounting, weak oversight, sloppy management and comingling of public and private finances.

The LAB couldn’t track all the finances because not every affiliated organization had a unique identification number in its accounting system, thus rendering a full accounting impractical. But what the LAB could count showed that $257.9 million flowed from UW institutions to the affiliated organizations over the period of the study. Remember that the money is usually supposed to flow the other direction.

In one relatively small example, UWMadison received$3.5 million in 2015 for media rights related to certain athletic programs and then immediately sent that entire amount to the UW Foundation. UWMadison said an unspecified portion of the $3.5 million was intended for coaches who had assigned their share of the funds to the UW Foundation, but did not provide any detail or accounting. UW-Madison is apparently so awash with money that a mere $3.5 million does not warrant scrutiny by university officials.

The LAB evaluation also found that there is very little separation between affiliated organizations and the universities they support. The various foundations and affiliated organizations are private organizations while the UW institutions are public entities subject to public scrutiny and oversight. They are supposed to be separate.

The LAB report showed that UW employees worked as the executive directors of most foundations for the four-year universities. Even though nine of the foundations reimbursed the taxpayers for some or all of the salary and benefits for the 50 employees who also worked for the foundations, it is impossible to determine if all expenses were reimbursed because those employees did not track the amount of time they spent working for the foundations. Meanwhile, four of the affiliated organizations that were not primary fundraising foundations had UW employees as voting members of the boards of directors.

Until December, the UW Board of Regents did not have a written policy governing the relationships between UW institutions and their primary fundraising foundations. The regents finally established that policy, but still do not have a policy to govern the relationships with all of the other affiliated organizations.

The citizens, taxpayers, students and staff who support the UW System deserve better than this. The lack of oversight, shady accounting, comingled governing structures and incomplete record keeping is intolerable in a system where hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake. Such poor management practices allow abuses like what happened at UW-Oshkosh.

The UW Board of Regents has been slow and incomplete in their response to this growing problem. The Wisconsin Legislature may need to step in and demand action on behalf of their constituents.

Reinventing Higher Education in Illinois

I wish we had more of this kind of introspective thinking in the UW System.

Southern Illinois University’s enrollment is in “free fall,” and the chancellor knows whom to blame. No, not the usual suspects — a stingy legislature, rising costs, tapped-out donors.

“Why is this (enrollment drop) occurring?” SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said in October. “It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students.”


Montemagno uttered these heretical (to defenders of the status quo) words as he proposed a dramatic reorganization that would lop off departments and department heads in the name of better serving students and allocating money. You don’t often hear such blunt it’s-us-not-them talk from Illinois public university presidents. They and their friendly enablers, too many pols in Springfield, battle to preserve state spending on university fiefdoms in their districts. Whether students go out of state, or enroll here and fail to succeed, are secondary concerns.

When faced with the same problem of declining enrollment in the UW Colleges, the UW Regents have decided to shuffle the organization, but leave everything else pretty much the same.

UW System Chief of Staff to Plead Guilty to Drunk Driving

Looks like Board of Regents meetings are a hoot.

 (AP) — The attorney for University of Wisconsin System executive Jessica Tormey says Tormey plans to plead guilty to first-offense drunken driving from an incident in Menomonie in October.

Tormey is the chief of staff to UW System President Ray Cross. The Journal Sentinel reports that Tormey was stopped by police on the night of Oct. 5 in Menomonie, where she was attending a two-day Board of Regents meeting.

A police citation filed in Dunn County Circuit Court says Tormey’s blood-alcohol content was 0.13 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

UW Regents Vote to Merge Universities and Colleges

Whoa. This seems like it went from an idea being floated by Cross to a vote at lightening speed.

Wisconsin’s two-year UW Colleges are set to become branch campuses of nearby four-year universities by the start of the 2018 school year after the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a sweeping and controversial reorganization of the schools Thursday.

The Regents backed the proposal from System President Ray Cross over concerns from former UW Colleges officials, student and faculty groups, Democratic lawmakers and two board members that it lacks key details and was made with minimal input from those  affected by the mergers.

Cross and the plan’s supporters say it will change the unsustainable structure of the UW Colleges while ensuring the predominantly rural communities those institutions serve still have access to local higher education.

A motion to move forward with planning for the reorganization, which would also shift functions of UW Extension under UW-Madison and central System administration, was approved on a voice vote during Thursday’s Regents meeting in Madison.

I’m not a fan of this plan because it does not address the underlying problem. The problem is the demand for most the colleges is dramatically down. This is due to a variety of factors including demographics, the proliferation of online education, and cultural preferences. But instead of addressing the issue, the UW Regents are choosing to try to prop up an expensive and increasingly irrelevant campus infrastructure for the purpose of saving the campuses instead of serving the students.

Cross Floats Merging UW Colleges with Universities

I didn’t realize that demand had shrunk that much.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin System’s two-year schools would merge with its four-year campuses under a plan system President Ray Cross announced Wednesday in hopes of boosting flagging enrollment.

The plan calls for making the system’s 13 two-year schools open regional branches of the 13 four-year schools. Students would still be able to earn associate degrees but they would bear the name of the four-year school. Students would get a wider range of courses to choose from and be able to take third- and fourth-year courses at the branch campus.

For example, two-year school UW-Barron County would cease to exist. Its buildings, faculty and staff would become a branch of UW-Eau Claire. Students who attend the branch campus would earn associate degrees from UW-Eau Claire and could complete four-year degrees through UW-Eau Claire.

The plan is designed to combat declining enrollment at the two-year schools and keep them open. According to a news release from the university system announcing the plan, enrollment at the schools has dropped 32 percent since 2010, costing the schools tuition and fees.

What’s more, system officials fear the number of college-age students will shrink over the next 20 years as Wisconsin’s population ages. The number of people in the state ages 65 to 84 is expected to increase by more than 90 percent by 2040, according to projections from UW-Milwaukee.


“The dramatic demographic declines in this state are undeniable and we have been working hard to ensure the future viability and sustainability of our small campuses,” Cathy Sandeen, UW Colleges and Extension chancellor, said in the news release.

As a taxpayer-funded public institution, that seems like exactly the wrong focus. If demand is shrinking and the public is moving away from the colleges, then close them down and rein in spending. Especially in this age, it seems that fewer campuses and more online and “branch” style educational offerings would be more appropriate than looking for ways to prop up underused campuses.

UW Policy to Enforce Civil Protests

This policy looks good.

University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.

The Board of Regents adopted the language on a voice vote during a meeting at UW-Stout in Menomonie.

The policy states that students found to have twice engaged in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others’ free speech would be suspended. Students found to have disrupted others’ free expression three times would be expelled.

“Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,” system President Ray Cross told the regents. “If we don’t show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.”

That is an incredibly healthy and appropriate statement from Ray Cross. Good for him. Nobody is saying that students can’t protest or express their views. All they are saying is that they can’t bully others into silence without consequences. For the record, that’s how it works in the real world.

UW Officials Balk at Free Speech on Campus


The proposed companion budget bill elaborates, stating among other things, that:

  • The UW Board of Regents and each college campus “shall guarantee all members of the system’s community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”
  • “It is not the proper role of the board or any institution or college campus to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
  • Members of the system’s community are free to criticize and contest views expressed on campus and “speakers who are invited to express their views, (but) they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
  • “The board and each institution and college campus has a responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

Walker’s proposal is raising concern among some members of the UW-Madison campus community that it might, in fact, stifle speech.

Perhaps if UW officials actually respected and protected free speech on campus today, such requirements would not be necessary.

UW Fails Diversity Test

As I discussed in my column a few weeks ago, universities are increasingly monolithic in the thoughts they allow to be expressed on their campuses. Speaker Robin Vos illustrates one example of the lack of diversity in the UW system over on Right Wisconsin.

Our review found roughly $2.7 million was spent on guest speakers in 2015. UW-Milwaukee spent more on speakers than any other school. Not surprisingly, a large number were easily identifiable as being liberal. The same was true with smaller schools. The largest amount paid for a single speaker was at UW-Platteville. Kathy Ober , a former professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and co-founder of the Social Justice Training Institute spoke three times for a total of $45,000. Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, was one of the highest paid speakers for an individual speech at UW-La Crosse last December . The UW System schools have invited actors, writers, musicians and even a local farmer to speak to students, each with a varying price tag to taxpayers.

What is noticeably absent in the top paid speakers to the UW System were individuals with conservative, political or social, perspectives. Within the top 50 taxpayer-funded guest speakers, we identified less than a handful of conservatives. Sure, there could be a plethora of conservatives who refused to accept any honoraria, but I doubt it.

The data suggests that when UW System officials look to invest in an invited guest, more times than not, they’re looking for a liberal-minded individual to disperse information to the young, developing minds who pay them thousands of dollars for their education.

UW Withheld Budget Until Last Minute

It’s pretty amateurish to not check the metadata. I mean, c’mon…

The annual operating budget that University of Wisconsin System officials refused to release publicly until 90 minutes before the Board of Regents approved it was actually finalized last week, contrary to what a system spokesman implied while explaining the delay to reporters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned.

The time stamp of the final modification to the budget document is contained in its meta data, which summarizes basic information about the document’s creation.The document was last modified June 3 at 2:07:58 p.m., and was released to the public six days later, at 1:58 p.m. on Thursday.

Within an hour of its public release, while the regents were actively discussing the budget in their meeting at UW-Milwaukee, an individual concerned about the way it was being handled opened a PDF of the document and traced the final modification through its meta data. That employee shared the information with Eric Sandgren, a professor in the UW-Madison Veterinary School.

Sandgren indepedently confirmed it, and so did the Journal Sentinel.

Tenure Not Needed for Academic Freedom

Except for the part about putting it into law, I agree with Chris Rickert.

Having a job for life might have been tenure’s allure for faculty. For citizens, tenure at a public university should be about the freedom to pursue knowledge even if that knowledge upsets the powerful.

You don’t need job-for-life tenure guarantees for that, though. You need rules like the ones in System policy andstate administrative code saying you can’t get fired for exercising academic freedom. A state law would be nice, too.

Otherwise, it’s only democratic that citizens, through their elected representatives, should have broad powers to shape state universities and their faculties.

If citizens change their minds, they can always elect new representatives. It’s not like the old ones have tenure.

No Confidence

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

The University of Wisconsin System is an integral part of the success of our state. It is not only a primary source of higher education for Wisconsin’s youth, but it is also an economic engine that impacts almost every area of the state. For these reasons, and many others, passions run high whenever changes happen within the system.

That passion is running high right now with the universities’ faculties, as many have passed, or are considering, resolutions expressing their lack of confidence in the leadership of the university system. It started with the faculty of UW-Madison. Then UW-Green Bay and UW-La Crosse followed suit. UW-Eau Claire and other universities are considering doing the same.

While these resolutions do not carry any legal or formal weight, they are an expression of the faculties of those universities. What sparked these resolutions was a change in state law regarding tenure for faculty and the fallout from that change, but the spark set flame to some tinder that has been drying for some time.

Up until a few months ago, Wisconsin was the only state in the union to enshrine tenure protection for UW faculty in the state’s statutes. The Legislature wrote those protections out of the statutes and tasked the UW System leadership with creating tenure protections as a matter of university policy. UW System President Ray Cross and the UW Board of Regents have done just that, but the faculties are not satisfied with the resulting policy. In creating the tenure policy, the UW faculty demanded that tenure protect faculty at all costs — even if their department was eliminated. The Board of Regents’ policy allows for universities to terminate tenured faculty if the university leadership decides to eliminate the position due to educational considerations, comparative costeffectiveness, budgetary concerns and other factors. The faculty wants the university to only consider educational considerations.

Essentially, the faculty wants guaranteed jobs for life, paid for by taxpayers and students, even if there is no longer any justification for their jobs, and even if that means sacrificing other budget priorities like new programs, facilities and safety. The faculty wants tenure to completely insulate them from anything else happening in the world. The Board of Regents wants tenure to protect academic freedom, but allow for universities to take a more holistic approach to staffing decisions.

But the underlying issue is much deeper than just the battle over tenure. At the core is friction over the role of the UW System and the growing frustration that UW has drifted too far from its responsibilities to the citizens of Wisconsin. For decades, the cost of attending UW System universities has risen far more quickly than inflation or the wages of Wisconsinites. At the same time, students and their families, myself included, witness incredible waste on campus in the form of extravagant facilities, required courses of dubious value and courses taught by teaching assistants while professors are unavailable.

While UW faculty are expressing their lack of confidence in their leadership, many citizens of the state they are supposed to serve have lost confidence in the UW System as a whole. Meanwhile, many UW faculty members want impregnable job protections while being paid by taxes and tuition from students and families who enjoy no such protections. If those students lose their jobs, they still have to pay their taxes. They still have to pay off their student loans.

The strength and success of the UW System is incredibly important to Wisconsin, but the definition of success is subject to debate. There is a balance that must be struck in striving for multiple objectives within the reasonable capacity of Wisconsinites to pay.


Committee Declines to Split Off UW


Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, said Tuesday that his committee will not advance a proposal by Walker to split off the University of Wisconsin System and remake it as a public authority.

Fitz: $300 Million Cut to UW May Stay

It is somewhat gratifying to see bureaucratic machinations come back to bite the bureaucrats.

MADISON (WKOW) — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) made it clear to 27 News Thursday that it is very unlikely the state legislature will go out of its way to restore much of the $300 million cut to the UW System proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015-17 state budget.


“I think with the out-of-state and the graduate student tuition increases that the Regents implemented there probably seems to be even less of a commitment to backfill that,” said Sen. Fitzgerald.


“I always say put it in context,” said Sen. Fitzgerald. “About a year and a half ago we were all sitting around wondering why the UW System had such a surplus and after we dug into it a little bit further it was more of a campus by campus thing, but I think because of that there are some legislators who still have kind of a bitter taste in their mouth about what do the UW’s finances look like and how solvent are they right now.”

So after hiding hundreds of millions of dollars while crying poor; and jacking up tuition by $6k for out-of-state kids; and failing to advance any real efficiency reforms; there is very little sympathy left in the legislature for UW’s complaints about the governor’s proposed funding cut.

UW regents vote to increase tuition

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents took action last week to jack up tuition by $6,000 over the next two years, and left the door open to even more increases after that. Don’t worry, though — the increase will not affect Wisconsinites … yet.

In Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, he offered to grant the UW system much more autonomy in exchange for a $300 million cut in state funding. That proposal is already meeting an icy reception in the Legislature with members opposing both the size of the cut and the plan for more autonomy.

In reaction to the prospect of a possible reduction in state funding by some yet-to-be-determined amount, the leaders of UW have two choices: They could either find a way to reduce costs, or they could increase revenue. Naturally, they chose to increase revenue.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank proposed increasing revenue in one of the few places she can. Given that the Legislature wisely imposed a freeze on in-state tuition, she proposed a 35 percent increase on tuition for out-of-state students over four years. Her proposal was for a full $10,000 increase that would have made out-of-state tuition $35,523 per year.

With lightning speed and no meaningful debate, the UW regents approved the first half of Blank’s proposal in a voice vote. Tuition for outof- state students at UW-Madison will increase by $6,000 per year by 2016 — far more than the actual cost of education. The immediate and instinctive reaction by UW’s leadership is concerning on a number of levels.

Philosophically, the automatic turn to a tuition increase instead of looking for efficiencies and cost reductions is troubling. For decades, the cost of higher education has increased much faster than the rate of inflation. It is the climbing cost of higher education that is driving rampant student debt and making it more difficult for the middle class to afford a college education. But while the price of higher education in Wisconsin has increased faster than people’s ability to pay, the quality of that education has not measurably improved at the same pace. It just costs more for the same product.

While it makes sense for some costs, like new technology, to increase faster than inflation, it is difficult to explain why the cost of a professor imparting knowledge to a class full of students has increased so quickly. When one digs deeper into the enormous building projects and bloated administrative staff, the reasons for the cost increases become much clearer.

When faced with a slight reduction in revenue (less than 5 percent with Walker’s full cut), UW was unable to even consider any significant cuts to keep tuition affordable. Since the tuition increase, Blank has announced a reduction of 400 jobs, but it has since been learned that the vast majority of those jobs are already vacant and unnecessary. It was window dressing designed to encourage students, staff and alumni to activism rather than a serious executive looking to seriously manage a revenue shortfall.

The UW regents are raising tuition on out-of-state students for obvious reasons. They can; and they think, probably correctly, that Wisconsinites will not be too upset at it because it does not impact tuition for them. But the increasing imbalance between in-state and out-of-state tuition adds political pressure to eventually raise in-state tuition too. After all, they will argue, is it fair to make out-of-state kids subsidize the education of Wisconsin’s kids?

The tuition increase also affirms what many legislators have been saying in regards to UW: They cannot be trusted with more autonomy and they cannot be allowed unfettered power over tuition. They have not demonstrated the slightest willingness, much less an ability, to control costs.

UW-Madison’s chancellor and the regents have gotten their tuition increase and a slight reprieve from having to make difficult decisions, but in doing so they have demonstrated why they must be actively managed by the state’s elected leaders. (Owen Robinson is a blogger at bootsandsabers.com and a resident of West Bend.)

Tying Tuition to Inflation


Walker’s budget calls for cutting $300 million from the system and extending a freeze on resident undergraduate tuition to July 1, 2017. In exchange the system would be free of state oversight starting in July 2016.

The plan has left students and legislators worried that the Board of Regents could dramatically increase tuition when the freeze ends.

Walker’s administration sent a letter to the leaders of the Legislature’sfinance committee on Monday saying the governor was modifying his proposal to limit post-freeze tuition increases to the rate of inflation. Walker has hinted since February he may impose tuition caps.

What I don’t like about this proposal is that it assumes that the current tuition is appropriate compared to the average Wisconsinite’s other relative costs. Is it? Could it cost less and still provide the same or better education? Just because a family’s other expenses increase, does that automatically mean that tuition should go up by the same amount? Why? Why shouldn’t the legislature’s efforts go into driving down the price of tuition relative to a family’s overall expenditures as a tuition freeze does over time? Wouldn’t that be preferable to locking in automatic tuition increases every year? And yes… I assume that if this is in place that UW would jack up tuition by the rate of inflation every year if they were able to.

UW Regents Approve Tuition Hike

There’s so much to say about this that perhaps I’ll make a column out of it.

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System regents have approved raising tuition for out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students at most of the system’s four-year schools starting next year.

The regents approved the increases during a meeting at UW-Waukesha on Friday. Plans call for raising tuition by hundreds of dollars at schools in La Crosse, Milwaukee, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout and Whitewater this fall. Tuition for nonresident students and graduate students in a number of programs at UW-Madison by thousands of dollars by 2016.

Quick hits since I only have a few minutes…

  • In the face of a cut that hasn’t happened yet, UW’s first reaction is to jack up tuition where they could. That’s telling and exactly why the legislature should neither lift the resident tuition cap nor give them more autonomy.
  • This happened very quickly… in less than a week from proposal to passage. The Board of Regents acted as nothing more than a rubber stamp. It was an incredible display of intellectual laziness that undermines the justification for having a Board of Regents in the first place. If they are just going to rubber stamp what the administrators want, then why bother with the charade of governance?
  • Speaking of the regents, where is Governor Walker commenting on the action by the regents he appointed to jack up tuition? Specifically, what the heck is wrong with Margaret Farrow?
  • This whole episode shows that UW’s leadership is completely out of touch with the real problems facing the middle class. The cost of higher education is ridiculously inflated to the point that middle class families can’t afford it without taking on massive amounts of debt, but instead of addressing the cost of education, they just go after more cash from those same middle class families.
  • Whenever a cut to UW is proposed, they react by saying that the decrease in funding will result in degrading the quality of education. If the quality of education has a linear relationship with the dollars spent, then can the UW leaders show how these out-of-state kids will get a better education for a 35% hike in tuition? If 35% more money doesn’t equal 35% better education, is the inverse true too? Can we cut UW by 35% and provide the same quality of education? I bet we could.