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

Plan keeps degree valuable

Starting Dec. 1, we, the students of UW-Eau Claire, can change the future of this university.

We will have an opportunity to state our opinion on the largest proposal any UW System school has ever seen: the Blugold Commitment.

The Blugold Commitment is an initiative to increase and enhance the high-impact practices we are known for: student-faculty collaborative research, internships, as well as domestic and international learning experiences.

Increasing these opportunities costs money and the administration is asking for an increase of tuition over the upcoming four academic years. Next fall and spring, tuition would cost $3,413 each semester, compared to our current level of $3,225. In 2011-12 tuition would be $3,600 per semester, 2012-13 it will increase to $3,787 and the final increase would come in 2013-14, costing $3,975. After four years, the increase would work out to $1,500 per school year. An increase of this scale will expand those programs, so every student on campus will have the opportunity to experience them.

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Debate over a tuition increase of this size has already been heated. There are numerous issues to discuss, but before you draw your conclusion, please be informed of everything the Blugold Commitment encompasses.

A survey will be sent out to every student on Dec. 1. Your individual results will help to inform the decision of your representatives in Student Senate. Once you have gathered information and debated your friends, a final decision needs to be made by each student: do I or don’t I support the Blugold Commitment?

While arguments against the Blugold Commitment are valid, there are far more issues at hand than just a tuition increase. Unlike UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse, who have implemented similar proposals, Eau Claire students will have oversight at an unprecedented level. Each year students will set criteria for projects funded through the Blugold Commitment. This could include anything from student evaluations to the department’s course availability.

Future students will always know exactly where Blugold Commitment money is spent. If any project or proposal is deemed inefficient or wasteful, it can be placed on a probation list by students. Probation-listed projects will also have recommendations, written by students and administration, as to the changes they would like to see. If those changes are not met, the project can be phased out.

Our current tuition money is spent by administration through academic departments and administrative offices, all without student oversight. Eau Claire students have a unique opportunity with the Blugold Commitment to direct the funds to specific areas they want to support. If the administration had the opportunity to increase tuition without student approval, we would never have this level of oversight or opportunity.

Students come to Eau Claire for the educational opportunities and prestige associated with a degree from UW-Eau Claire. The vision statement of our campus states we will become the premier undergraduate learning community of the upper Midwest. The Blugold Commitment provides the financial support to achieve that goal.

There is no way we could ever achieve the goal of our vision statement unless a proposal of this scale is introduced. If you believe state funding – either current levels or increased – could accomplish this, you are incorrect. Over the last 15 years, both political parties have had their opportunity to increase funding to higher education, yet they have not. In economically prosperous and hideous times we have received less state funding. For example, while the UW System has been cut by the equivalent of $365 million since 1993-94, the Department of Corrections has seen an increase of more than that amount. There was never a policy or agenda to create this trend; it was a bipartisan effort.

If somehow a drastic increase did come to higher education, the increase in revenue must be equally distributed among our peer universities in the UW System. Eau Claire would get the same percentage increase as UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stout, UW-Platteville and UW-Superior.

Without the Blugold Commitment, our competitive edge will be lost. Professors are already working beyond their limits, and to continuously ask them to increase their workload is not a sustainable business model. If the Blugold Commitment fails, we will continue to see an increase in class sizes and a new trend of decreased programming. The university is at a breaking point. Without the Blugold Commitment, the programs that set us apart from our competitors will diminish. Eau Claire will slip into the crowd with our study abroad rates, research opportunities and unique learning experiences. If we lose everything that distinguishes the university, then what makes us different from Oshkosh, La Crosse, Stout and Platteville?

The Blugold Commitment also includes a portion for financial assistance. Low- and middle-income students will receive financial support for this increase, but not all will. I argue students who go without financial assistance will be paying a competitive price for the value of their degree. Compared to other institutions, a tuition increase of this scale would enable us to more effectively compete with other universities. If price is your only concern, UW-Parkside, UW-Green Bay and Platteville all have the lowest tuition in the UW-System. But here is my point, and most of you would agree: those schools were probably not near Eau Claire on your list of potential universities.

While those schools are far from the thoughts of most students, others continue to argue against the timing of the Blugold Commitment. Some students want to wait and see if changes to GE requirements and a reformed advising center will help the quality of education. They might also argue a new Governor will increase funding for the UW System, but we must wait for that as well.

Yes, policy changes like GE reform are coming our way, but waiting four to five years to measure their outcomes is not an option. A new governor will be elected next fall, but hoping for a change in the next state budget is no longer an option.

Do we sit back and hope for a generous new governor? Do we hope new policies free up our options? No, we do not. We demand more money from the state, no matter who is in charge. We mandate changes to GE and graduation requirements.

We require these changes, and we make the commitment to ourselves and the future graduates of Eau Claire by supporting the Blugold Commitment.

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