Wachs pushes tuition cap during campus visit

Story by Alex Zank, News Editor

A recent panel discussion at UW-Eau Claire that featured Rep. Dana Wachs gave students a chance to ask him about the recently proposed state budget and how it will affect them.

The panel that took place March 8 in the Centennial Room of the W.R. Davies Center was put on by the newly re-vitalized Society of Politics in cooperation with the United Council of UW Students.

At the very start of the panel, Wachs made clear to an audience of 19 students that education, along with healthcare, are his two biggest concerns in state government and that he had serious concerns about the current state of education in

“Two years ago my son (who attended UW-Madison) … was shocked to find out that one of the faculty members that he was most fond of had to make a decision between Harvard and Madison,” Wachs said. “All of a sudden that person had to decide to go back to Harvard.”

Wachs used this example to show that if we want “world-class schools” then the state needs to adequately compensate the professors. Otherwise, he claims they will end up going elsewhere, much like what his son experienced at  UW-Madison.

There were several topics covered with detailed responses by both Wachs and senior Kayla Johnson, who also sat on the panel to answer questions with a student perspective.

Some of the areas covered were the flexible degree program, transferring credits between schools, tuition caps and directly tying majors to jobs.

Flex Degree Program

Wachs was asked by panel moderator and president of SOP Evan Langer about new money in the proposed budget going towards a flex option.

Wachs said although he was unsure of how it will affect campuses since the program is new, he generally supports flexible degrees.

“The most important thing is that people get educations,” Wachs said. “If some people weren’t able to have their education when they were in their late teens or early 20s, that’s an option for them. I think we have to be flexible.”

In a report released in June of 2012 by Governor Scott Walker’s office, the flexible degree is described as “a more personalized experience” stating students can start and finish the online courses at convenient times for them.

Transferring credits

Langer said that in the budget is a requirement that Wisconsin technical colleges have 30 credits that can be transferred between institutions and asked Wachs how it will affect students.

Wachs said although he doesn’t know what the direct effects will be right now, he generally supports the concept.

“If more people end up with degrees (because of it), that’s great,” he said.

Johnson added that in her case she took classes at UW-Stout while attending high school, which gave her a jump-start to earning college credits.

“Being able to take those credits and bringing in so many then with me and taking advantage of a program like that,” she said. “I think it’s beneficial to not just students that are transferring colleges, but those that are coming in.”

Tuition Cap

Something missing from the proposed budget that was mentioned at the panel was a tuition cap.

“I think there should be a cap, and I think the lower the better,” Wachs said.

The tuition cap was recently removed in the state. Its aim was to prevent tuition from increasing by more than a certain amount.

“There’s an increasing will it seems in Madison that everything we think we need is linked to a job,” Wachs said.

He said this includes what kind of education students are getting at the college level. He said there is a lot of philosophical debate going on in Madison on this topic.

“You can’t fly the satellites without the theoretical physics,” he said. “But it’s not often you see jobs come out of the theoretical physics.”

He said that majors like philosophy, history and physics are important components in society and play a role in job creation.

Along the same lines, Wachs said that we need to invest in more pure, scientific research at the university level  which also creates jobs and grows industries.

Langer and vice president of SOP Kristen Cupp said that panels like this offer students a chance to talk directly with their representatives.

“I think it’s really important for students to have their voices heard,” Cupp said.

Langer and Cupp said they plan on having similar panels with other state leaders, such as Rep. Warren Petryk and Senators Terry Moulton and Kathleen Vinehout in the future.