Wisconsin News

If re-elected, Gov. Walker looks to extend UW tuition freeze

UW-La Crosse chancellor says it would impact staff at university

If re-elected, Gov. Walker looks to extend UW tuition freeze

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Now that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker knows who he will face in the upcoming November election, he can start to fine-tune his strategy during the final campaigning months.

One of the issues we could hear a lot more of during Walker's campaign is higher education.        

Last week, Walker mentioned on social media what he expects to work on if he gets another four years in office. One of the items he talks about is the continuation of the UW tuition freeze; however, staff and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse say an extended tuition freeze may do more harm than good.

Associate professor in the mathematics department at UW-La Crosse, Robert Allen, always knew he would be a professor.

"Went to grad school, got my PH.D. and then came here," said Allen.

The Virginia native is only five years into his career at UW-La Crosse, but Allen said he can see a future here.

"I personally can see myself retiring here," said Allen.

However, the past two years have been a challenge.

"The tuition is frozen at the moment, it will be the second year of the biennium so we will have done that for two years now," said Joe Gow, chancellor at UW-La Crosse.

"We have a little bit of limitations in the resources because there are things that we use student tuition for," said Allen.

The tuition freeze will expire at the end of this school year. However, if Walker is re-elected in the fall, a recent tweet suggests it could be extended.

For students, a tuition freeze is better on their pocketbooks.

"It's easy to say in the short-term, it's less money I have to pay," said Allen.

"We are going to do it again the next budget, we gave incredible flexibilities to the University of Wisconsin system to make the sort of adjustments they need to retract and retain the top faculty in the world," said Walker. "The answer though is not to jack up tuition to make it harder for students and working to afford it, the answer is to give each of our campuses more flexibility to make those certain decisions," said Walker.

However, in the long-run, Allen says it may impact the students' experience.

"The problem with tuition freezes is that part of that impacts salaries," said Allen. "You want your school to grow as well so that when you are out there and say you went to UWL, people know that that is an amazing school and that is only going to happen if resources keep coming in to recruit new faculty, to keep outstanding faculty we already have."

"We just lost somebody the other day to Minnesota for much higher pay and we are going to keep losing ground if we don't get some tuition to pay our employees a little more competitively," said Gow.

Although Allen could see a future here.

"I love the school, I love the students, I love the town, everything is great," said Allen.

Allen admits another tuition freeze could impact his plans.

"I can't say if things were the same in 10 years, I would be able to stay here," said Allen.

Instead of looking at extending the tuition freeze, Gow said he would like to see legislators focus on restoring the state funding for higher public education that he said has been cut in the past 10 years so that the universities wouldn't have to rely so heavily on student tuition.

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