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Warnings about UW tuition freeze


MADISON (WRN)   The outgoing head of the UW-Madison says University System officials should be cautious about freezing tuition in the future.

The UW System’s Board of Regents signed off this week on a tuition freeze for all students. UW-Madison outgoing Interim Chancellor David Ward says the decision made sense as a “tactical retreat,” following the controversy over the System’s reserve fund earlier this year.

However, Ward says a freeze comes from one-time money and “will not resolve the structural dilemma of the tuition level of this system.” He warned regents this week that keeping tuition too low actually does a disservice to campuses, because it makes it harder for them to compete with peer institutions.

Ward says “if your price is $5,000 less than most of your competitors…then you’re trapped by using up all your innovation to just simply catch up with other people’s price.” He says the System needs to determine a fair tuition rate for students, which will allow it to make better decisions in the future about prudent tuition increases.

Ward’s comments drew some criticism. Scot Ross with One Wisconsin Now said “the sentiment expressed by Ward shows a substantial disconnect about financing higher education and the impact of exploding debt on borrowers.” He added that the “UW ought to be proud that their tuition is a relative bargain,” rather than look for ways to justify increasing the cost of receiving an education on its campuses.

Lawmakers added language to the state budget that ordered the UW System to freeze rates for all resident students, after it was discovered officials had built up a $650 million reserve fund while continuing to increase tuition in recent years. The Board of Regents on Thursday voted to extend that freeze to graduate and non-resident students as well.