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UW System proposes lower tuition, higher aid, and new workforce development investments (April 19, 2013)

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April 19, 2013

UW System proposes lower tuition, higher aid, and new workforce development investments

MADISON, Wis - University of Wisconsin System students will benefit from small tuition increases and big investments in financial aid under ideas proposed today by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly.

Reilly will also recommend strategic investments in new Flexible Option degree programs and other efforts to boost Wisconsin's economy.

"Our state and national economies are stabilizing, but students and families still feel the effects of a crushing global recession. They face uncertain job prospects and growing debt, and I believe we can help. Based on the solid UW System budget introduced in February, which is now making its way through the legislature, we are in a position to take big steps that will help all our students and all Wisconsin citizens."

Reilly will work with the Board of Regents, the Legislature, and the Governor on four key strategies:

  1. Reducing tuition increases over the next two years
  2. Eliminating the waiting list for financial aid and expanding work-study opportunities
  3. Matching the state's performance-based economic development grants
  4. Accelerating the development of UW Flexible Option degrees

"I look forward to working with State leaders on their top priorities, and these ideas, as well as ways to ensure high-quality education by attracting and retaining talented UW faculty and staff," Reilly said.

Reduce tuition increases to 2% for two years

"This budget represents much-needed stability for our colleges, universities and extension networks. If those funding and flexibility provisions for UW remain intact, I will recommend tuition rates for the 2013-14 academic year that represent no more than a 2% increase this year, and a 2% increase again for the 2014-15 academic year. Compared to the 5.5% increases we've seen recently, that will save UW students more than $70 million over two years," Reilly said.

"When Governor Walker announced his budget, we said this would set the stage for very low, very modest increases, and we meant it. Students are making decisions now about college and we need to send the message now that a high-quality UW education will remain accessible and affordable."

Eliminate the waiting list for financial aid

Reilly will also recommend that the UW System reallocate up to $30 million over the next two years for additional need-based financial aid, including outright grants and work-study opportunities.

"Our goal is simple - we want to eliminate the waiting list for the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (WHEG) program. This means that students who meet the eligibility requirement for financial aid in the 2013-15 biennium will receive adequate funding from UW to continue working toward their degrees," Reilly said.

Last year, more than 30,600 UW System students received a WHEG award, at an average amount of $1,900, but 5,350 eligible students - those with documented need - remained on the waiting list after the state program ran out of money.

"In addition to providing more outright grants and scholarships, we will provide funding to campuses to offer more work-study positions and paid internships with local businesses. Research shows that linking working and learning in this way helps students complete their degrees and land jobs after graduation," Reilly said.

Invest in performance-based economic development programs

The proposed 2013-15 state budget provides $20 million in performance funding for UW initiatives that create a stronger workforce and boost economic development. Reilly will ask the Regents to match those investments with an additional $20 million.

"We know that our UW institutions are all working on bold, innovative plans to fuel economic growth, and we want to see more of those ideas move forward. Using the same performance-based framework proposed in the budget, we can increase the amount of funding available during the next two years by $10 million per year, so that more of these ideas can be implemented," Reilly said.

Accelerate Flex Option launch

The budget calls for $2 million in state funding to launch innovative new UW Flexible Option degree programs. Reilly will recommend a $10 million one-time investment to help launch this new platform.

"Across the state and around the nation, our idea to offer innovative competency-based degree programs in fields that match the needs of Wisconsin's workforce has been met with broad acclaim. Working adult students in particular have expressed great interest in pursuing degrees where the demonstrated knowledge they have gained on the job, in the military, in professional or civic organizations, and elsewhere will be recognized for college credit," Reilly said.

Leverage strong budget, prudent planning to power new plan

"Thanks to cautious, prudent fiscal management by our UW chancellors, and the strong budget proposed by Governor Walker, I believe we are in a position to hold down college costs, increase student aid, expand educational options, and boost economic growth. We must live up to our financial obligations and maintain some fiscal safety net, but we can also identify smart ways to reinvest a portion of our reserves now in UW students and our state. This is just such an opportunity," Reilly said.

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Media Contacts:
David Giroux
UW System
608-262-4464

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