Regents not unified on response to UW surplus - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Regents not unified on response to UW surplus

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Local members of the UW Board of Regents say its time to have a serious discussion about how to handle future surpluses within the UW System.

Their comments came a day after Republican lawmakers slammed UW System President Kevin Reilly for continually raising tuition, while building a reserve fund worth $648 million.

Tuition increases of more than 5 percent have been one thing UW students have consistently been able to count on for the last six years.

"Its just tuition goes up and it almost becomes normalized as a fact of life for kids my age," said Meghan Ford, a senior at UW-Madison who claims to have more than $20,000 in student loan debt.

But none of the students likely knew the tuition increases came at a time the UW System was building a reserve fund worth hundreds of millions.

"It was very confusing as to completely understanding what's going on with the UW System," said Ford about the news of the surplus.

Even some UW Regents were confused.

"The reserve fund was part of the materials that was presented to the Board of Regents.  But there was no particular focus on either the level of the reserve fund or the growth of the reserve funds over the past several years," said Regina Millner, who appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Walker in May of 2012.

But others say the reserve should not be surprising or particularly concerning.

"Its my understanding that percentage of reserves to revenue was less than even what other schools do," said David Walsh, a member of the Board of Regents since 2003. 

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is, at the very least, there needs to be more transparency from the UW System.

"Its very important for us to keep the confidence of families and students in the state with what's happening with the administration," said Millner.
    
"Because its like, oh, what can we do to fight it?  They're just gonna raise tuition no matter what and it kind of becomes incredibly disheartening," said Ford.

It appears students may be able to take heart that tuition will be frozen in the next state budget.  Governor Walker, as well as lawmakers from both parties are now recommending a freeze.  But it still remains unclear whether UW System officials will regain that confidence in the coming years.

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