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Wisconsin lawmakers consider bill that could end UW System tuition freeze

NOW: Wisconsin lawmakers consider bill that could end UW System tuition freeze

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A proposal being considered by lawmakers would allow the UW System to raise tuition at its campuses by the rate of inflation every year.

It is an idea that has drawn mixed reaction, but one that tries to address the concerns of students and the universities.

The current tuition freeze was set in 2013 and the bill would not affect tuition until 2021 at the earliest.

While the tuition freeze is popular among students and families because it keeps the price of a college education affordable, the UW System is trying to maintain the balance of maintaining costs economical while also keeping the quality of the education to a high standard.

The author of the bill, Rep. David Murphy (R – Greenville) said he is trying to address concerns from both sides.

“I’m trying to protect students and families going forward because we need to keep the cost affordable,” Murphy told CBS 58. “We need to make sure students here in Wisconsin can go to college at a reasonable cost. The other thing is, we have a great university system, and we must protect that also.”

Murphy, who is also the chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said he is trying to avoid a scenario where the tuition freeze ends and the UW System raises tuition sharply.

Under the bill, the UW System could raise tuition based on the consumer price index every academic year, but every incoming class would have its tuition rate locked in for all four years they are on campus. If a student requires a fifth year, they would need to pay the tuition rate for that year.

The Republican from Greenville told CBS 58 he has met with representatives of the UW System, Governor Tony Evers and members of his own caucus in the Legislature in order to build support.

“A lot of people were neutral on it in that they wanted to think about it more, look at it more,” Murphy said. “People weren’t saying ‘no,’ but people weren’t jumping on the bandwagon immediately.”

UW System President Andrew S. Petersen sent the following statement to CBS 58:

“As a key driver of the state’s economic and job creation engine, reinvestment in our public universities is the UW System’s primary focus. Lifting the tuition freeze is one of many options, but maintaining affordability without diluting quality is why we continue to prioritize operational investments.”

A spokeswoman for Governor Evers did not say whether or not Evers is in support of the bill, but mentioned that the governor had proposed funding the current tuition freeze in his budget. However, that funding was cut by Republicans in the final version of the state budget.

She added, “We hope that the legislature will follow the governor's lead in recognizing the value of the UW while also working to make college and technical college more affordable for students and families.”

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