- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Nine University of Wisconsin System schools plan to ask regents this week for permission to dramatically raise tuition for graduate and nonresident students to help offset big cuts Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed in his state budget.

The schools include those in Madison, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout and Whitewater. The increases vary by school and graduate programs.

Most of the eight satellite campuses’ plans call for raising tuition by at least several hundred dollars starting next year. UW-Madison has drawn up a four-year plan that calls for raising non-resident undergraduate tuition by $10,000 by 2018-19 to $35,523 per year. International students would see an $11,000 increase to $36,523 by 2018-19.

The regents’ finance committee is expected to vote on the increases Thursday during the first day of a two-day meeting at UW-Waukesha. The full board is expected to decide whether to approve the regents’ actions on Friday.

Genevieve Carter, a junior at UW-Madison and chairwoman of Associated Students of Madison, the school’s main student organization, said the increases could price students out of college. She said no one consulted students about how much they could afford.

“The university is in a really difficult financial situation because of the budget cuts, but it’s really hard to put this on students at the last minute,” she said. “Tuition is the just the thing that continues to subsidize education rather than investment from the state and the federal government. It’s a really scary trend. It’s been making a lot of students question whether it’s worth it to go to college anymore.”

In response to the proposed state budget cuts, UW-Oshkosh announced on Monday it will reduce the number of its intercollegiate sports programs by two, after the 2015-2016 school year. The men’s soccer and men’s tennis teams will be cut while the men’s and women’s track and field and men’s and women’s cross-country teams will be combined under a restructured coaching staff. The action reduces UW-Oshkosh’s total number of varsity sports from 21 to 19 and will result in the loss of two coaching positions.

The proposals come as campus officials look for ways to absorb $300 million in cuts Walker has proposed for the system over the two years that end July 1, 2017. Walker has promised to decouple the system from state oversight in return, a move that system officials have long sought, but they say the cuts would devastate their operations.

Campus leaders can’t raise resident tuition to cushion the blow - the Legislature froze those rates two years ago after learning system officials had built massive reserves while raising tuition year after year, and Walker’s budget would extend that freeze through mid-2017 - but the regents can raise out-of-state and graduate tuition as much as they want.

Walker’s cuts aren’t certain. The Legislature’s finance committee is about to begin making revisions to his budget before passing it on to the full Assembly and Senate for approval early this summer. Republican leaders in the Assembly have said they don’t think granting the system autonomy would serve any purpose and the cuts are too deep.

The finance committee’s co-chairman, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he supports the increases if they’ll help offset the $300 million cut. He reiterated, though, that he’d still like to reduce the cut.

A spokesman for Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the Senate’s higher education committee and an outspoken UW System critic, also didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the increases.

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