University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin told the Board of Regents on Friday that if a plan to split UW-Madison from the UW System did not give her campus more control over tuition, then she wouldn't back it.What intrigues about the article is the way in which posted tuitions serve as signals of excess demand for perceived quality.
"I would oppose that because it wouldn't be a public authority," Martin said. Significant restrictions on tuition or big changes to the shared governance structure of the universities would be "complete deal-breakers," she said.
Martin was also asked during a special regents meeting whether splitting from the UW System, in a model often described in higher education as a public authority status, would lead to a ramp-up in tuition.
Nobody pays list price. Higher education, however, likes to labor under the conceit that nobody meritorious should be deprived of an opportunity to matriculate for something as crass as lack of money. At the same time, admissions officers have opportunities to tweak aid packages for students in ways that would make the manager of a frequent flyer program blush. Whether Madison posts the same list price as Oshkosh or a different list price probably doesn't matter much: cheeseheads and Coasties alike know which is the hardcore party school and which is the subprime party school. But if Madison posts a higher list price, with the excuse that Urbana and Ann Arbor do it, and then offers its"My fear is . . . that this potentially moves Madison toward being a higher tuition model that would exclude those very students who have been able to attend Madison in the past," Regent John Drew of Milwaukee said.Martin said she believes tuition at UW-Madison needs to increase to be on par with other major research universities. The possibility of a tuition increase of about 10% a year that was floated in a January memo was about the same as tuition increases that UW-Madison students have paid over the past two years, Martin said.Martin also said she's not wedded to any specific tuition increase figure. But Martin would only endorse tuition increases that hold harmless students of need with families making $80,000 a year or less, that are offset with more financial aid, and that are tied with a campaign to let people know that the "sticker price" of a college education is not the real cost, once financial aid is considered.
The prospect of Madison going its own way bothers the editors at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
A system that leaves what has been a resurgent Milwaukee campus weaker with fewer options of its own will not sit well. The Legislature should use a broad lens, and the matter should not be decided simply through debate over the next two-year budget.Suppose for the sake of discussion that Madison is adapting to the excess demand for perceived quality by admitting more out-of-state students, thereby enhancing its own coffers (the out-of-state tuition is calculated on a fully allocated cost basis: allocate on the basis of a small bucket and admit a large bucket and you're money ahead) and compensating for the state's stinginess, and at the same time displacing Wisconsin residents who on the basis of the small bucket of Coasties would have a space at Madison to Milwaukee. It is then likely that Milwaukee is admitting students who could cut it at Madison, and to offer them a less demanding course of study is to shortchange them. Thus the policy discussion Wisconsin ought to be having is whether Milwaukee is set up to serve strong students.
[Wisconsin system president Kevin] Reilly counters that three alternatives are available here, all bad for the Milwaukee campus: UWM becomes a part of a two-school system with Madison (and a weak sister); Milwaukee remains within a weakened system that does not include Madison; Milwaukee spins out on its own, which it isn't ready to do.Option one is the status quo before 1972, in which Milwaukee was not Madison, but it was more like a university than the converted teachers' colleges in the other system. In those days the state guaranteed a slot somewhere in one of the systems for any applicant who graduated in the top half of a state high school class, although each university had its own criteria for admission. The second option is to merge Milwaukee with the former teachers' colleges.
The focus on organizations, however, says nothing about whether there is enough capacity at Madison and Milwaukee to serve some portion of the top half of the high school graduating classes. In these times, to suggest that the state pick up enough of the universities' expenses to allow a motivated student to meet his or her costs with a part-time job during the school year and a full-time summer job is a bit much.