Republican lawmakers propose limiting tuition increases in UW System

A proposal by state Rep. David Murphy and state Sen. Andre Jacque would prohibit the UW Board of Regents from raising in-state undergraduate tuitions and fees by more than the previous year's rate of inflation.

Associated Press

February 28, 2023

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A vinyl banner with words Office of Student Financial  Aid and University of Wisconsin-Madison with the university's 'W' crest on it stands in a hallway, with a glass-paneled door in the background.

(Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

AP News

By Todd Richmond, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican head of the state Assembly’s higher education committee wants to limit future University of Wisconsin tuition increases to no more than the rate of inflation, an idea unveiled on Feb. 28 that comes after a decade of frozen tuitions.

The proposal from Rep. David Murphy and Sen. Andre Jacque, both Republicans, would prohibit the UW Board of Regents from increasing in-state undergraduate tuitions and fees by more than the previous year’s rate of inflation. They circulated it Feb. 28 for co-sponsors.

GOP lawmakers froze in-state undergraduate tuitions in 2013 but lifted the freeze in 2021, allowing the regents to raise tuitions if they so choose. The board hasn’t made any increases since the freeze was lifted, relying partly on federal pandemic relief funds to cover costs. But Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023 budget would leave the system about $130 million short of what the regents say they need to run their campuses over the following two years.

The governor has said that his budget would give the regents enough money so that they shouldn’t have to raise tuitions, but system officials have said that after the 10-year freeze, everything is on the table.

“I always feel that the university should have some independence because they are an independent group,” Evers said Feb. 28 when asked about the bill.

Evers said he supported keeping tuition “at a reasonable level.”

Murphy, who chairs the Assembly’s colleges and universities committee, and Jacque wrote in a memo to lawmakers that their bill would prevent tuitions from skyrocketing and help families plan for college expenses.

Asked for comment on the bill, UW System spokesman Mark Pitsch said the regents have the authority to change tuition and approach “such decisions thoughtfully and carefully with a goal of ensuring the quality education students deserve and parents expect.”

Spokespeople Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment about the bill.

Resident tuitions vary across system campuses. They range from about $4,750 per year at the system’s two-year institutions to about $9,275 at UW-Madison, the system’s flagship four-year university, according to UW System figures.

Those costs don’t include student fees and room and board.

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

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