While some saw it as a defeat, Governor Scott Walker hailed as a victory the Joint Finance Committee’s decision Thursday to remove a 5% tuition decrease from the second year of Walker’s budget. The move leaves in place a tuition freeze. “Oh it’s a huge win,” Walker told Media Trackers Friday. “And remember, “there was some at the time both in the UW-System and some lawmakers who were sympathetic to their argument that they wanted a tuition increase in the second year of the biennium. I proposed a decrease, which I would have loved to have, but pretty good negotiating; we got a freeze out of it, which is where we have been the last four years. So I think that’s a tremendous victory; not so much for me and the legislature, but for students. For college students and the working families across the state that support them. But Democratic lawmakers argued that not raising tuition actually hurts college students.
Yet Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee argued against extending the tuition freeze for two years — saying it actually would hurt students. She complained about Walker slashing the UW System budget over the years, and said the extension would result in even less money flowing to campuses.
“The motion that you’re doing cuts dollars directly to the classroom. It cuts access and in the end what that means, is that students will pay more, they’ll pay more because they’re going to have to be in school longer, courses will not be offered in the same rotation that they could if they’re losing professors, this is a huge challenge,” Taylor says.
Walker dismissed the criticism. “The audacity of Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee, the very party that was in charge for part of the decade before our freeze went into effect, when tuition in that decade went up 118%…now runs around with motions to claim they want to provide free tuition for two years. It’s just a joke. The fact is people need to call them out on it. They had their chance; tuition went way up…To us the answer is keep it low in the first place.
Walker says he’s heard from students and parents alike from around the state that they want lawmakers to keep down the cost of attending state universities. He he believes the key is to do more things like Republicans are in K-12 funding, such as encouraging early college credit programs. He considers JFC’s action to be “a win for everybody.”