Gov. Scott Walker said a tuition freeze or even a reduction might be in the next state budget for University of Wisconsin System students, contradicting an assessment earlier in the week from UWM Chancellor Mark Mone.
“Those are all things that are certainly on the table,” Walker told Watchdog.
On Monday, Mone said he expects tuition to go up in the next state budget. Walker said he doesn’t necessarily see a tuition increase in the near term.
“We’re not making plans for that right now,” Walker said. “The state budget we’ll be working on in earnest in June, certainly my goal is to continue to make college affordable for students.”
Walker was speaking at the JCPenney Customer Care Center in Wauwatosa about the success of the FoodShare Employment and Training program in helping move people back into the workforce. Watchdog asked about a tuition freeze at a press availability afterward.
“Part of the reason why so many students have student loan debt problems is because before our freeze, tuition went up in the decade before 118 percent. It was an average of over 8 percent per year before our freeze,” Walker explained. “For the first time in our state’s history, we froze tuition four years in a row. That certainly makes college more affordable for more college students and working families.”
At a campus meeting on the budget, Mone told the audience, “I am on the UW System tuition task force, and we’re operating with the assumption that we will be able to work with the legislature and the governor to have some type of modest tuition increase.”
“I have to tell you, it seems very politically popular to keep the tuition freeze in place,” conceded Mone, head of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “So we’re operating on two minds about this. One, it is very realistic to think that we may not get this, but we have to continue to plan, continue to communicate the importance of this.”
In an interview Tuesday, state Rep. Dale Kooyenga said he sees some irony in the call for tuition increases, not just from Mone but others.
“We hear a lot on the left and the UW that the tuition freeze needs to go at some point,” the Brookfield Republican said. “But this is the heart of Wisconsin, ‘feel the Bern’ Bernie Sanders. And so, I’m really perplexed by the left in Wisconsin saying we need to lift the tuition cap while also campaigning that we can have free college tuition altogether. I just don’t get how the left can say the tuition cap is bad but yet many of the same people are ‘feeling the Bern,’ saying we need to have free college altogether. I’m having problems reconciling that.”
Kooyenga was one of the “CPA Caucus” Republican members of the state Assembly responsible for discovering the $1.27 billion surplus in program revenue not disclosed publicly by the University of Wisconsin System in 2013 that led to the four-year tuition freeze.
Kooyenga dismissed the talk of the “devastating cuts” to the UW System. “If you look at the university system, the outputs show it just isn’t so,” he said. “We have more graduates than we did five years ago, we have tuition being the same amount, kids are graduating quicker than they did five years ago as well.”