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Student association stands against tuition freeze

Menomonie (WQOW) - It's something you don't see often, but Democrats and Republicans in Madison appear to be on the same page.  They are calling for the UW-System to freeze tuition. 

This, on the heels of a new report that shows the system has $650 million in reserves, including $414 million in surplus tuition dollars.

Tuesday, the UW-System president was grilled by republican lawmakers about how this is possible considering tuition has increased by five and a half percent a year for the past several years.  Lawmakers are now calling for a two-year tuition freeze.

In light of this, a surprising vote from the UW-Stout Student Association.  Those students support a tuition increase rather than a freeze.

"When I heard that students were getting excited about a tuition freeze, I actually looked into it and there really isn't a single model with the tuition freeze actually working in favor of students," says Stout Student Association President-Elect, Juliana Lucchesi.

Which is why the UW-Stout Student Association voted unanimously in support of a proposed two-percent tuition increase, that's less than the average.

"I think what the students did was in large part a consideration of what they hear on campus," says UW-Stout communications director, Doug Mell.

Lately the word is a UW-System surplus of almost $650 million, $414 million in tuition.  UW-Stout says it's not as simple as saying each campus gets its equal share.

"Each institution only has a certain portion of those funds at their university," says Lucchesi.

Stout currently holds back only 8.5% of what it gets from tuition, which is a small part of the $414 million in the UW-System. 

Stout says what it spends now to foster a strong faculty is not enough, which is why the students support keeping tuition on the increase.

"Salaries for faculty and staff have fallen so far behind our peers that it's starting to have an effect in the classroom.  I think that's what this is recognition of," says Mell.

"It's a very important issue to us that our faculty doesn't get paid enough.  Currently we're about 18% to 20% under the national average for our teacher pay," says Lucchesi.

Causing some professors to consider a career change.

"If the professor would actually just work in their field instead of teaching it, they would make more than what they would for teaching it," says Stout Student Association Vice President-Elect Brandon Michael Wayerski.

Students say UW-Stout isn't sitting on large piles of cash reserves, instead it's working with what the UW-System sends its way, something they'd like to see incorporated at other campuses.

"It shouldn't be the UW-System that gets cut or has a tuition freeze, but that it should be each institution being looked at and audited.  I think that's a much more appropriate way to go about things," says Lucchesi.

Something they're hopeful lawmakers will hear in Madison.

UW-Stout staff members haven't had a raise since 2007 and the student association is now looking into options like differential tuition to raise more money for wages. 

Regarding the call for a tuition freeze, a UW-System spokesman says it's difficult to comment because the budget is still in flux.

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