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 presents tuition increase

Governor Jim Doyle presented a budget to the state legislature Tuesday night that calls for UW System tuition increases between 5 and 7 percent annually over the next two years.

“The University of Wisconsin system is the finest in the nation … and we need to make sure it also remains one of the most affordable,” he said.

The United Council of UW Students had requested that a tuition increase be held to 5 percent a year, while the budget’s projected increase is 5.9 percent, said Erika Dinkel-Smith, a student senator and United Council representative. The plan will mean an increase of about $850 per student over the next two years, she said.

The budget includes $23 million in financial aid, or a 34 percent increase. Doyle’s plan also expands the college tax deduction to the average price of UW tuition.

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“Two years ago, we saw the deepest cuts ever and highest tuition increases ever in the history of the UW System,” said outgoing UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash, who attended the speech in Madison. “(This time) there was a whole lot more to be happy about, even though we’ll continue to have challenges.”

Student Senate President Chad Wade echoed Mash’s reaction.

“I think students, faculty, and administrators let out a collective sigh of relief last night,” he said, “… (but) we are disappointed tuition could go up as much as 14 percent over the next two years.”

The proposed budget cuts 200 administrative positions in the UW System and adds 125 new faculty positions. This figure falls short of the 300 new faculty positions requested by the UW System Board of Regents, said Vice Chancellor Andy Soll.

In his address, Doyle introduced a Star Faculty initiative intended to pay more competitive salaries to the UW System’s “best and brightest” faculty.

“The amount in the budget for that is very limited compared with the challenges we have in attracting and retaining faculty,” Soll said.

The budget also includes $500,000 per year for domestic partner benefits for UW System employees.

“The governor has been pretty clear that this would be domestic partners of the same sex or opposite sex,” Soll said, adding that UW-Madison is the only Big Ten university without domestic partner benefits.

Doyle’s budget did not address the Board of Regents’ request for a faculty pay plan, an element Mash called “the third leg of the stool” in attracting and retaining faculty. The Regents had requested a 5 percent increase in faculty salaries; Doyle’s budget provides 1 percent for the first year and 0 percent the second year, Soll said.

However, Wade said he looks at the budget with “cautious optimism” and called it a “step in the right direction.”

United Council will deliver wooden doors signed by students on all 26 UW System campuses to state legislators as part of a student rally and lobby day February 24 in Madison, said Brian Tanner, United Council organizing and communications director. Two doors came to Eau Claire Wednesday afternoon.

“Students’ voices should always be heard,” Dinkel-Smith said. She urged students to make phone calls, send letters and get involved with student government.

Chief business officers from each campus will meet Thursday and Friday to begin work on allotting budgeted funds to individual campuses, Soll said.

“Some hard work has already been done to get us to this point, and the hard work must continue,” Mash said.

– Mark Schaaf contributed to this report.

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Doyle presents tuition increase