The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Doyle expected to announce UW System cuts

During the October gubernatorial debate on campus, then-Democratic candidate Jim Doyle said he thought a 10-percent cap on tuition increases would be too high.

Although he promised to keep the state’s higher education affordable for all students, Doyle did not offer any specific promises on tuition increases.

Remaining vague on the issue during the campaign may have been good for the governor. Since taking office, Doyle has refused to ignore the idea of allowing for UW System tuition increases over 10 percent. Such spikes would mean an increase in tuition of more than $150 per semester at UW-Eau Claire.

The governor’s official stance on tuition caps and overall funding cuts to the System will be presented Tuesday to the Legislature along with the rest of his 2003-05 state biennium budget.

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Doyle’s plan will start the difficult process of solving the state’s estimated $3.2 billion budget deficit, which has floated predictions of more than $100 million in cuts System-wide.

Vice Chancellor Andy Soll said he expects Doyle to propose System cuts of around $200 million or more.

As for the governor’s tuition stance, Doyle’s campaign statements on a 10-percent tuition cap probably were just wishful thinking, political science department chair Rodd Freitag said.

Once his term as governor began and Doyle saw how significant cuts would be in the state, he opened to the idea of a larger tuition cap, said Freitag, a College Democrats adviser.

To maintain the level of quality in the System, he said at least a 10-percent tuition increase is necessary.

At a roundtable last week, Chancellor Donald Mash said two-thirds of Eau Claire’s funding comes from state funds and about one-third from tuition revenue.

During the budget settling last summer, legislators set an 8-percent tuition cap for all UW campuses for this school year, which is about $120 per semester. The Legislature also set state financial aid for students to increase similarly with any rise in tuition.

Sophomore Rachel Boaz, Student Senate’s state budget campaign coordinator, said United Council, the lobbying organization for most UW students, hopes for no higher than an 8-percent tuition increase.

“We just don’t feel that (students) should have to shoulder all of the burden,” said Boaz, who added that the campaign’s goals are to preserve the quality, accessibility and affordability of a UW education.

A Senate-led press conference called “Don’t Leave Students Out in the Cold” will address Doyle’s budget at noon Wednesday at the clock tower on Campus Mall.

Doyle, who touts education as his main priority, probably will call Tuesday for a moderate tuition increase with a comparative boost in state student financial aid, Soll said. He agreed that Doyle’s recent consideration of a tuition cap of more than 10 percent is due to the budget deficit being worse than previously thought.

Doyle told the Board of Regents Feb. 6 that the state is in a “very difficult” situation, but “if we slash education, we undermine what makes our state so attractive,” as stated in a System report.

Now is not a time to start new initiatives, Doyle said, but to identify and protect priorities in the budget.

“We won’t ask the university to do anything that the rest of the state isn’t willing to do itself,” he said.

The governor, Soll said, seems to be “at least leaving the door open” for a balance to be made between cuts to the System and the ability for campuses to raise tuition. It will take much consideration to pick that balancing point and sustain accessibility and quality System-wide, he said.

Although he doesn’t think a tuition cap should be set, Soll said he expects some form of one to appear in the legislative process. He said he understands that students would like to see a cap on tuition, but it should not be so low where “we’re really cutting off an arm or leg of the university.” A cap also shouldn’t be set before cuts to the System are finalized, he added.

If the System’s net loss after funding cuts and raising tuition is about $49.5 million — 5 percent of its budget — it would be the best practical, although “painful,” result, Soll said.

With Doyle promising not to raise taxes, Freitag said he thinks “everywhere can expect fairly significant cuts.”

The System shouldn’t expect anything better than what Doyle proposes Tuesday, Freitag said. With a Republican-controlled Legislature, he said, the level of cuts probably will only increase, although not dramatically, through the budget process.

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Doyle expected to announce UW System cuts