The latest plan to make college affordable in Wisconsin actually focuses on students. 

State Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, and by Senator André Jacque, R-De Pere, have introduced a piece of legislation they are calling the “Open and Accessible UW Package.”

The proposal has five main highlights: 

  • A four year tuition freeze for all students across the UW System.
  • An attempt to cap skyrocketing student fees.
  • New requirements to force the university to be transparent about third party relationships.
  • A move to allow students to more easily transfer between UW campuses.
  • Permission for the University of Wisconsin to eliminate duplicate and outdated reporting requirements.

“Our proposal does not lift the tuition freeze, rather it creates a safety net for college students by capping future increases in tuition if the freeze is ever eliminated,” Murphy said. “I believe it is important to create a safety net for college students.”

Tuition in the University of Wisconsin System has been frozen since 2013.  University managers have complained for several years that the freeze is beginning to hurt their efforts to recruit and retain top faculty members. 

Murphy’s and Jacque’s plan would cap any future tuition increases at the rate of inflation. 

“Our proposals put in place strong protections to rein in excessive and inappropriate costs for students while eliminating a statutory barrier to expanded dual credit opportunities for high school students,” Jacque said. “These are vital reforms for ensuring college affordability for our current generation and beyond and accountability to taxpayers.”

While tuition has been frozen across the UW System, costs for students have continued to go up. Most notably the cost of housing, food and mandatory student fees.

That’s why Murphy and Jacque want to make it tougher for the university to spend that money. 

Their proposal would require two votes from students, in two different years, before UW managers could spend student fee money on construction or new activities. 

UW Madison students voted back in 2014 to pay for a new recreational center. UW Regents announced just this year that construction on that center will begin

Jacque and Murphy are not getting much attention for their proposal to streamline the university’s transfer program. 

Both say UW has been promising to make it easier to transfer between UW campuses for 50 years. They say it’s time to make that a reality. 

“No student should be forced to take the same class over again simply because they transferred from one Wisconsin public college to another,” Jacque said. “I am very pleased to be offering these reforms.”

Murphy heads the Assembly’s committee on Colleges & Universities. He said he hopes his plan can come up for a vote next spring. 

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.

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