UW-System surplus has some in Madison seeing red

May 3, 2013

UW-MadisonBy Raina J. Johnson
Special to the Milwaukee Times

A recent report released by the Legislative Audit Bureau showed that the University of Wisconsin system has reserves of $648 million and $414 million in tuition surplus. At the same time, records show that tuition increases have been steady at 5.5 percent annually since the 2007 – 2008 school year. Many lawmakers question this surplus. Rep. Mandela Barnes (D – Milwaukee) said, “It’s just another reason to freeze tuition.”
With this being a current budget cycle, this matter isn’t being taken lightly. For now, we have to wait and see what action, if any, lawmakers will take. President Kevin Reilly of the UW System was grilled at the Capitol on the issue. Senator Alberta Darling (R – River Hills) asked a tough question of Reilly: “Students from all over the state have said you know what, we’ve taken out loans, we’ve taken out grants, we have 2 or 3 jobs, we want to finish our degrees. And they’ve told us how difficult it is to get through the University system and the amount of debt they have and yet here we have accounts of tuition being squirreled away at the same time you raise tuition, what is your intent – what is your leadership intent of managing the UW money in this way?”
Reilly responded, “We’re always trying to avoid that situation where we get to a bi-annual where we say, wow, the state budget is down, we’re back in another recession, gifts and grants are down, people aren’t giving as much money, and we have fewer students, and how are we going to afford to educate the ones that are left? Because so much of our budget is tuition based.”
This conversation is likely to continue as lawmakers go into sessions regarding the budget and the UW system is preparing for policies and public hearings on what is an appropriate amount to have in their reserves.

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