Since Scott Walker’s 2011 reforms in the Badger State straightened out the budget, the state has generated a windfall of tax revenue. Walker would like to serve some of that up to Wisconsin’s college students in the form of lower tuition, but he’s getting resistance from Republicans who don’t want to spend the money, and State school officials who say it’s not enough. The editors of The Wall Street Journal write:
Nearly everybody agrees college affordability is receding and claims to be worried about student debt, though woe unto the Governors who do more than talk. Mr. Walker’s tuition discount is getting a cool reception in the Republican-controlled state legislature because it is a spending increase. But compare that to the reception in Madison and other college towns.
UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank of the flagship campus said in a statement she was “very appreciative” of the funding increases, but she told the faculty in January: “It will not surprise you to know that I think this isn’t the best way to use state dollars. Saving everybody a hundred dollars or so is peanuts compared to what’s needed, which is affordability for low- and middle-income students. We have large numbers of families for whom that hundred dollars is meaningless.”
The UW Board of Regents has been in open revolt against the tuition freeze for years, viewing Mr. Walker’s concession prices as beneath the school’s reputation and dignity. “I don’t want to diminish the importance of tuition, but let’s not get tuition tunnel vision,” UW-System President Ray Cross warned last October. By the way, the new Walker budget brings need-based financial aid to an all-time state high.
Mr. Walker’s tuition cut is a useful exercise in truth-in-advertising for academic priorities. Public universities want both higher costs for students and more taxpayer money, and anybody who tries to challenge this status quo is merely offering “peanuts.”
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