- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - University of Wisconsin System officials are poised to raise out-of-state and graduate tuition rates again to help offset Gov. Scott Walker’s resident undergraduate tuition freeze and give their employees raises for the next two years.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on plans Thursday that would raise out-of-state and graduate tuitions by hundreds of dollars at six four-year campuses and all two-year schools. Also on their agenda is a proposal to give system employees a 2 percent raise in each of the next two fiscal years.

The plans come as the system continues to struggle with a $250 million cut that Walker made in the current state budget as well as a resident undergraduate tuition freeze that entered its fourth straight year this fall.

The proposals call for raising out-of-state and graduate tuitions at UW-Eau Clare, UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stout and all the UW Colleges. The increases range from a several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

UW-Madison, the system’s flagship campus, is looking for the biggest increases. That school wants to raise nonresident undergraduate tuition by $4,000, to $35,523 for the 2018-19 academic year. The school also wants to raise tuition for a master’s degree in global real estate by $11,116, to $43,280 by 2018-19. The cost of medical school for nonresidents would jump by $7,751, to $46,387 per year by 2018-19. For residents, it would increase by $5,828, to $34,478. All told, the UW-Madison increases alone would generate $13.7 million annually, according to a memo system officials sent to the regents.

The schools said they need the extra money to bring their nonresident rates more in line with peer institutions and to retain faculty. UW-Milwaukee wants to boost programming for international education. UW-Madison said it needs more money to help expand science, engineering and math programs, boost financial aid and install new technology.

The request represents a third round of nonresident and graduate tuition increases at La Crosse, Milwaukee and Stout since 2015. Those three schools were among a number of campuses that won increased tuition from the regents in 2015 and again this past spring.

UW-Madison leaders proposed a four-year plan for nonresident and graduate tuition increases in 2015. The regents approved only two years of it after saying they were worried the economy could change and they might anger legislators working to hold tuition down. This week’s request represents the second half of that 2015 plan.

Raising nonresident and graduate tuition helps fill campus coffers, but it also risks alienating those students and losing them to other schools. In their memo, the system officials said their schools aren’t worried about dissuading prospective nonresident students from applying because their rates are still competitive with peer institutions. A preliminary system report shows the overall number of nonresident freshmen fall enrollments has increased since the 2013-14 academic year.

State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, a frequent UW System critic, called UW-Madison’s request “excessive and punitive.” He accused Chancellor Rebecca Blank of caring little about middle-class families’ finances. Blank issued a statement in response saying she has to maintain lower tuition for in-state students and she wants to set nonresident and graduation tuitions at market rates.

The regents this fall adopted a plan to keep the undergraduate resident tuition flat for 2017-18 and raise it by no more than the rate of inflation the following year if Walker lifts the freeze. The governor has said he wants to continue the freeze for another year, but he hasn’t committed to a sixth year.

Money for the pay increases, meanwhile, would come from the state’s compensation reserve, a pot of money the Legislature sets aside at the beginning of every two-year budget to cover unforeseen pay increases and increases in benefit costs. System officials estimate that the raise would cost about $78 million over the next two years.

System officials said in another memo to the regents that other public universities, which have been averaging a 2 percent salary increase annually. UW-Madison’s faculty salaries, for example, were 18 percent lower than peer faculty elsewhere after adjustments for geographic costs of living in fiscal year 2014-15, the memo said.

Regent approval would send the raise proposal to the Legislature’s committee on employee relations.

UW staff received a 1 percent annual across-the-board raise in the 2013-15 state budget. They didn’t get an across-the-board raise in the current state spending plan.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson and Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, co-chairman of the employee relations committee, didn’t immediately respond to emails Tuesday. Jason Klein, a spokesman for Associated Students of Madison, UW-Madison’s student government arm, also didn’t immediately respond to an email.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1


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