Office of the President
Kevin P. Reilly, President, University of Wisconsin System
All Regents Session on Tuition & Financial Aid
Thursday, December 8, 2005
When I was first introduced as the president of the system in July of 2004, I offered congratulations to all students and alumni of the University of Wisconsin who had degrees, or others who would soon, from one of the finest higher education systems in the world. And to those Wisconsinites who were not graduates of the UW, or didn’t have a family member on one of our campuses right now, I noted the likelihood that one day they would have a child, grandchild, great-grandchild ―or niece, nephew, grand-niece or grand-nephew ―at a UW campus.
I closed by observing that those fortunate enough to have had a UW experience know it changes one’s life in a very positive way. And I pledged that I would ask all Wisconsin citizens and university friends to help keep the UW System strong so that positive ripple effect will continue for many generations to come.
For generations of Wisconsinites, the UW has been their best option to a brighter future. For hundreds of thousands, it has represented a ticket to progress and prosperity. And it has for them always, always, been accessible.
Today, however, many of our fellow citizens do doubt their ability to afford a UW education for themselves and their children. They are concerned about being able to receive grants, or low-interest loans, to help subsidize their education. And they’re concerned about the amount of debt they’ll have when they graduate from one of our campuses.
Perhaps worst of all, worst of all, many Wisconsin families, when they sit around the dinner table, are not talking to their children about a college education, because they don’t consider it a possibility.
There was a time when Wisconsin was THE place for big ideas in America. From social security, to worker’s compensation, to welfare reform, Wisconsin, usually in concert with its university, was the one state that Americans could rely on to come up with big ideas. It’s time for us to get back to the tradition of thinking big.
One of the big ideas I’d like us to begin to consider has to do with tuition and financial aid. We all know that the rising cost of higher education is pricing out a significant portion of our fellow citizens, a cut of the population that has as much talent and genius as those of more means. Leaving this set of young minds and curious intellects behind is not in the best interests of the university, nor this state.
We know that our financial aid programs have not kept pace with tuition increases, and that more and more of our students and their families are taking out loans to pay for higher education. And we also know that by increasing the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin, we can increase the state’s per capita income, generate more taxes, and build the 21st century economy that will keep Wisconsin viable and vital.
We will be hearing a lot of numbers and data and policy options in the next few minutes, but we should keep asking ourselves the same questions, namely:
- How do we agree on a big idea regarding tuition and financial aid that can increase access, especially for those of lesser means?
- How do we work with the PK-12 system to get our big idea out to the audiences that need to hear it?
- How will this idea also help strengthen our retention and brain gain efforts?
- How do we come to consensus on a set of principles that can guide our thinking toward realizing our big idea?
- How do we excite the imagination of the public about our idea and our vision?
- How do we construct a compact with the Legislature and with the Governor to realize these goals?
- How do we think BIG?
I believe that the promise of this university is the hope of Wisconsin’s future. I know that, together, we can make the dream of a university degree a reality for all Wisconsin residents who want to earn one, and who want to work to earn one, regardless of wealth.
To get us started in thinking big, I’d like to turn this over to Associate Vice Presidents Sharon Wilhelm and Freda Harris. We’ll start with a presentation by Sharon on financial aid.