Madison—The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse would charge students $1,320 over three years on top of annual tuition increases to expand and diversify its student body under a pilot program approved Thursday by the UW System Board of Regents.
The regents, who approved the program as part of a budget request for 2007-’09, said it offers a glimpse of what’s to come throughout the UW System.
Until now, all of the state’s public universities—with the exception of UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee—have charged the same level of tuition. The money has gone toward instructional costs only.
Under UW-La Crosse’s program, which must be approved by the governor and Legislature, a quarter of the $15 million generated would go toward financial aid. Half of 1,000 new students admitted would be minority or low-income.
“This could be a big part of the future of the UW System,” said Regent Thomas Loftus, citing campus-specific tuition increases being used to fund “financial aid,” “access” and “diversity reasons.”
While the regents rallied around the pilot program, a leader of the United Council of UW Students said implementing it across the system would be a mistake. He said it would saddle students with too much financial burden.
“I think it would be a disaster,” said David Glisch-Sanchez, the organization’s director of academic affairs. “It would send the message that the entire university should be funded by students and their families.”
Rep. Rob Kreibich (R-Eau Claire), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said the program likely would antagonize Wisconsin families, who don’t want to see their tuition bills rise.
“This is all about creating a third revenue stream that will only spread and skyrocket,” Kreibich said. “If it’s not to attract more minority students, it will be for some other purpose, and the affordability index will continue to rise.”
Under the UW-La Crosse pilot program, tuition would increase $220 each year for three years starting in 2008. That would be on top of the annual tuition increases approved by the regents for all of the schools in the UW System.
The university, which saw its state support cut by $6.3 million over the last six years, plans to use the money to add 1,000 students and 100 faculty members over six to seven years.
But the expansion goes beyond class sizes. A major focus of the program is bringing in more low-income and minority students, of which UW-La Crosse has few. The university would hire new staff to help recruit and retain 500 such students. It would use $3.8 million to fund scholarships and other forms of financial aid.
“We are targeting two particular groups,” Lostetter said. “Students from the bottom two income quintiles and students of color.”
He said UW-La Crosse needs more diversity to prepare its students for a multicultural work force.
Ryan VanLoo, president of UW-La Crosse’s student association, said he supports the pilot program even though it would mean higher tuition bills.
“This will move us forward in the right direction by bringing in full-time faculty and staff and diversifying our student body,” he said.