This tweet is really what got me started on gathering these data:
Walker's chart isn't wrong, but it sure looks like there ought to be another side to it-- what variable is driving tuition so high above CPI inflation? It's declining State Aid to the UW System. Check out how State Aid per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student has not only lagged inflation, but gone backwards:
Ignoring inflation for the moment, current year State Aid per Student is about the same as it was back in 2000. And Walker's proposed block grant for the new UW System Authority beginning in 2017-18 would take it back to 1988 funding levels. Again, this is before
taking inflation into account -- everything costs more than it did in 1988, and our expectations of a relevant university system have changed quite a bit as well. (From here on out, all figures are in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars.)
Another way to visualize the relationship between state aid and tuition is to look at total funding from various sources:
I could only go back to 1994 on this one, but you can see that as total State Aid (blue) goes down, total Tuition (red) goes up. (And "Auxiliary Enterprises," which includes fees for dorms and meal plans follows the same pattern -- in either case, more money from students.) See that spot where tuition first goes north of state aid? That happens to be 2011-12, the first year of Walker's first budget.
Another great resource for understanding the relationship between State Aid, Tuition, and the Cost of Instruction is the flowchart on page 11 of the UW System Operating Budget Request. It clearly illustrates that, regardless of federal grants, other funding sources, or the size of the "total" UW System budget, the business of educating students (aka, "Cost of Instruction") is paid from only two sources: State Aid and Tuition. A cut to one requires an increase in the other.
Unlike Walker who cuts state aid and mandates a tuition freeze at the same time, Tommy Thompson showed that he understood this dynamic when he provided an increase in state aid to pay for freezing tuition in his final budget for 2000-01.
If you had the good fortune to graduate from a UW school before the early 80's, your tuition was about 25% of the real cost of your instruction. This was the policy of the Board of Regents up until 1980 (see page 12 of this LFB report).
Today, depending on your campus, undergraduate resident tuition is up to 82% of the Cost of Instruction (System average is 70.7%). It is in this sense that the UW has become less "public" over the last 40 years; state taxpayers used to cover 75% of the cost to educate resident undergrads, and today the state's contribution is only 20-30%.
Here is how this trend has played out at UW-Milwaukee:
And here we can see the increasing burden on students as a percentage of Cost of Instruction trending up as state aid per student trends down:
Now let's turn to what could be…
In 1973-74 State Aid per FTE Student was $12,510 in 2014 dollars.
In 2014-15 State Aid per FTE Student is $7,688; a net decrease of $4,822/student
If we multiply that $4,822/student gap by current enrollment of 153,252 full time students, that's about $739 Million in State Aid per year.
Total Tuition paid by Resident Undergrad Students in 2014-15 was about $884 Million.
So, if we restored State Aid per Student to 1973-levels and dedicated the additional $739 Million towards Resident Undergrad Tuition Relief, it would cover about 83.5% of the Total Tuition currently paid by Resident Undergrads, meaning tuition rates could be reduced by the same proportion… so tuition could be in the $1,000 to $1,500 per year range.
One can quibble with exactly how additional funding should be allocated to particular campuses, undergrads vs grad students, etc., but in any case restoring State Aid per Student to 1970s levels would go a long way towards tuition relief (and curbing the student debt crisis).
It probably can't be done in one budget cycle, but the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should campaign on the goal of ultimately restoring State Aid, Student Share of Cost of Instruction, and Tuition to 1970s levels. The UW System is something that sets our state apart and it supports all sorts of innovation and economic activity (not to mention less tangible benefits like the Search For Truth). Maintaining its status as a world leader in so many fields and increasing students' access without incurring absurd levels of debt should be a priority that a wide swath of the electorate can get excited about.
[Author's note: It's my hope that this post and the linked spreadsheets will be a useful resource for those interested in the continued vitality of the UW System. Feel free to copy/share/etc. far and wide. Even if we lose on this budget, there's another one coming up in 2017 and it might be handy to have this info at the ready. Also, please go ahead and re-post this to relevant DailyKos groups. I'm not sure how that works.]
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