Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has begun crafting his budget proposal for the 2017-2019 budget. Included in this budget are his proposals for changes to higher education in the state. Historically, Walker has encouraged reduction in funding towards the University of Wisconsin System and only given relief to students through a tuition freeze. From 2012 to 2017, the state of Wisconsin has seen $362 million cut from the UW System, according to UW officials. All eyes were on what proposals Walker would make for the coming fiscal years.
For his 2017-2019 budget, however, it would seem that Governor Walker has chosen to reverse course, if ever so slightly. His latest budget proposals call for a 5% reduction in tuition across the UW System. On top of the relief for students, Walker is also proposing increasing state funding to the UW System by 135 million dollars.
These proposals come ahead of what could be a re-election campaign for the 2018 gubernatorial race. His proposals have come with skepticism. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) saying, “I didn’t see a lot of excitement for the tuition cut” among GOP senators, with many of them having concerns about how such proposals would be paid for.
Other proposals that have the potential to impact students include the idea of allowing students to opt out of some segregated fees. UW–Stout junior Alex Turnbough explained how this might cause a problem:
“I’m a part of a student organization that uses segregated fees for activities we host. Stout is all about involvement. That involvement wouldn’t be possible without those segregated fees.” The argument is that not all students are like Alex and don’t benefit directly from segregated fees.
Further proposals would require students pursuing a degree from a UW campus to have an internship or hands-on work experience before graduating, with the idea being that it would help bridge the gap between school and work. UW–Stout already has a huge presence when it comes to internships.
Program Director for the Career and Technical Education on UW–Stout’s campus responded to this proposal in an interview with Stoutonia by saying, “As a Career and Technical Educator, I am kind of with them on that, but don’t use the word ‘hands-on.’ It’s an evocative word to use.” He went on to say perhaps the focus should be on “cognitive and physical apprenticeship, or cognitive and physical co-ops. Use words that mean something. I do agree with it, I mean, wouldn’t you?”
The state senators will spend the next few months debating these proposals. The fiscal year starts anew on July 1, so the budget needs to be passed by then. If a new budget isn’t agreed upon by that time however, things remain as is, and spending remains at the levels they had been from the previous budget.