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UW works to protect more students from tuition increases while facing daunting financial challenges (Feb 17, 2009)

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 17, 2009

UW works to protect more students from tuition increases while facing daunting financial challenges

MADISON, Wis. – For the first time, the University of Wisconsin System and the Governor have worked together on a plan to cover tuition increases for families with need who earn up to the state’s median family income of $60,000.

Reacting to Governor Jim Doyle’s proposed budget for the 2009-11 biennium, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly and UW System Board of Regents President Mark J. Bradley emphasized new efforts at the State and Federal levels to preserve affordability and access. They also acknowledged that major funding cuts will present serious challenges for the University.

“To emerge from this recession and pursue our better future, Wisconsin must expand its college-educated workforce. For the first time ever, we’ve worked to protect more hardworking students and families from tuition increases, even in the midst of today’s formidable financial crisis. While working with the Governor on this tuition relief, we have also worked with Congressional leaders to ensure that the Federal stimulus package included significant new assistance for college students and their families,” Reilly said.

Governor Doyle’s budget provides a $12 million increase to the UW System for need-based financial aid, along with $24 million in new funds for the Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB) and the UW Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (UW-WHEG) program. This new aid would offset tuition increases for resident undergraduate students with documented need whose families earn up to the median family income of $60,000. In addition, the Federal stimulus bill signed today by President Obama includes a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, expanded work-study funding, and refundable tax credits for families working to cover tuition and other educational expenses.

“As we have done in the past, we will work hard to keep tuition increases modest and predictable, but families today are understandably concerned about any increase in the cost of education. Together with significant new federal assistance and tax credits, this expanded state aid sends a clear message to Wisconsin residents – that college remains within their reach and we want them to enroll,” Bradley said.

“Reflecting the state’s fiscal reality, this budget presents serious challenges to the UW System, requiring our institutions to cut up to $174 million in funding over two years. At this stage, it’s too soon to tell how these reductions will affect individual campuses, academic departments, or Extension offices, but it’s clear that every part of our UW System will be affected. Such large reductions will undoubtedly result in fewer class sections, larger class sizes, reduced student services, and other impacts felt by our students, faculty, staff, and communities,” Reilly said.

Governor Doyle’s proposed budget reduces the amount of state tax support for UW System by $100 million over two years. The budget also calls for an across-the-board cut equal to 1% of all non-Federal funds, amounting to as much as $49 million. In addition, the budget includes a one-time transfer of $25 million from funds previously paid by students and others for residence halls, athletics, and other fee-funded services.

“We’re mindful that all state and local agencies, all students, and all Wisconsin families are feeling the terrible effects of this historic economic downturn. With that in mind, the UW System will continue its successful efforts to limit administrative overhead, increase operational efficiency, preserve educational quality, and shoulder our share of the fiscal burden. Our goal is to sustain the vision set out in the UW System’s Growth Agenda for Wisconsin – to produce more degree holders, create more well-paying jobs, and strengthen communities where all citizens can thrive,” Bradley said.

“The Growth Agenda began in 2006 with bipartisan support and broad input from people who share our vision for a prosperous State. That vision will be the compass that guides us on our difficult journey through this recession. We must work in partnership with the Governor, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to act as prudent managers of our scarce resources and deliver a real return on investment to taxpayers in every corner of the state.  In a crisis like this, that is precisely what people need from their public university, and it’s what we will deliver,” Reilly said.

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Media Contact:
David Giroux
University of Wisconsin System
(608) 262-4464