The UW-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Committee passed a pledge that supports funding the tuition freeze set in place by the UW Board of Regents. By signing the pledge, UWM Faculty are petitioning for the increase of state funding to offset the amount of money UW-System schools have lost since the tuition freeze.
The 40 members of the UWM Faculty Senate passed the pledge on Thursday, April 20, after meeting to discuss the pledge in Curtin Hall.
Chancellor Mark Mone spoke in favor of the pledge. “I’m all for funding the freeze if it continues to exist, and I’m all for supporting our students,” said Mone.
Similar pledges have been signed by Faculty Senates of other UW-Schools, such as UW-Green Bay, Whitewater and Lacrosse.
The pledge was brought to the table by Linguistics Professor Nicholas Fleisher. Fleisher encouraged the faculty to pass this pledge, saying that the purpose is to draw attention to the tuition freeze. “There has been no money to offset the money that has been lost due to the tuition freeze as it has been implemented,” said Fleisher. “We would like to see funding put back into the system for that purpose.”
The tuition freeze that is currently in place has existed since 2011. This means that since 2011 there has been no increase or decrease in the yearly tuition that any student pays to any UW-System school, including UWM. “A freeze is in fact a cut,” Mone said to faculty.
Tuition and general purpose revenue, or GPR, is the major source of funding for the UW System. The tuition freeze means that there is currently an unfunded mandate within the budget.
The pledge says that “since the 2011 state budget, the cumulative cuts in state funding to the UW system have totaled $795 million,” and furthermore says “the budgetary effects of an unfunded resident undergraduate tuition freeze, in effect since 2013, have compounded these educational harms to students.”
“Fund the Freeze” mentions a few direct effects of the freeze to students, such as “reducing class offerings and programs, increasing class sizes, and lengthening the time to degree.”
The pledge did not pass easily however. Portions of the pledge were edited, to make sure the statements were fully backed by the faculty. One portion that was edited included changing the word Wisconsin, to the word UW-System, to clarify that the UW – System “now spends less on educating its UW students than at any time in its history,” as the pledge reads.
One of the members who brought some of the clarification issues included Richard Marcus, who is a chairman on the Executive Committee at UWM. “I’m just worried that we’re saying something that just can’t be true,” said Marcus.
After these changes however, every member voted in favor of the pledge.
Dale Kooyenga, a Wisconsin state representative who is the vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance said that he is in favor of “modest UW flexibilities in tuition.” Kooyenga explained to Media Milwaukee in an interview that he believes students should place some of their own equity into their education. “We can’t freeze tuition forever,” Kooyenga said.
Chancellor Mone also spoke at the meeting about the deep cuts that have occurred specifically at UW – Milwaukee. “You couldn’t have more of a perfect storm,” Mone said to members of the Faculty Senate. “There is an increase in obligated spending, and enrollment declines have heavy revenue implications.”
The Provost of UWM, Johannes Britz, spoke at length about attempting to increase the enrollment of students. One potential market Chancellor mentioned was reaching out to adults in the area who have some college experience, but no college degree. Chancellor Mone explained what the administration is doing in order to increase the enrollment at UWM. “We’re relentlessly pursuing new opportunities,” said Mone.
Professor Fleisher said that he hopes this pledge is a step in the right direction. “If our state leadership is serious about maintaining the quality of a UW education and keeping tuition in check, then they should be talking about providing funding to pay for the freeze.”