Cross: UW regents will seek tuition increase in next budget

MADISON — University of Wisconsin System regents plan to ask Gov. Tony Evers and legislators to lift a freeze on tuition and allow them to raise rates to match inflation in the next state budget, system President Ray Cross said Wednesday.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Cross told the state Senate's universities committee that the regents will include the increase in their 2021-2023 budget request later this year. He said it would be “roughly inflationary.”

System spokesman Mark Pitsch said regents haven't made any budget recommendations. Regents President Drew Petersen didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Republican lawmakers have kept undergraduate tuition frozen at the system's four-year schools since 2013. The freeze has proven popular with student families and lawmakers from both parties.

But system officials maintain that the freeze coupled with deep budget cuts — Republicans have stripped about $1.1 billion from the system since 2011, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau — has handcuffed the system financially. The regents have spoken multiple times about the need to return tuition-setting authority to them.

Cross made his remarks as the Senate committee was considering a bill from Rep. Dave Murphy and Sen. Andre Jacque that would set limits on how much tuition could increase if and when the freeze is lifted. The measure would cap increases annually to account for inflation and lock in the same rate for each incoming class for four years. Fifth-year students would face an increase.

Murphy and Jacque are both Republicans.

Cross told the committee that the system wouldn't be able to keep pace with inflation because only a fourth of the student body pays any increase. Such a set-up would be difficult and costly to administer, he added.

Committee Chairman Dale Kooyenga said the bill doesn't have much momentum.