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New-student leaders introduce themselves as 2016 incoming first-year undergraduates listen to a presentation about challenges new students may face as they transition to campus life during a Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) session at Union South.

Jeff Miller/ UW-MADISON

As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a world-class research institution, I have the ability to receive a quality degree with hard work and support. However, that support is threatened by polarized views and a mistaken belief that investing in public education is a partisan issue, rather than of value to all. I know that in order to create jobs, improve the Wisconsin economy, and maintain a quality education, my state must invest in education.

The University of Wisconsin System operates with the Wisconsin Idea in mind. This guiding principle promotes a sustainable path to building careers. I attend UW-Madison with the perspective that afterward I will contribute to my community through public service. 

I support making education affordable to create a pathway to new, innovative careers for Wisconsinites. However, this cannot be accomplished by sustaining the current tuition freeze, as proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, without allocating additional funds to the university. In order to create access and affordability to the university, the state must actively participate in supporting public education.

UW-Madison, similar to University of California schools, is starting to see more out-of-state and international students admitted, meaning fewer spots for in-state students, in order to make up for the loss of revenue. Essentially, in-state students are being afforded a less-accessible university because of the Legislature’s decision to disinvest. 

Similarly, to make up for the $250 million the UW System lost in the last biennial, UW campuses are increasing student segregated fees to cover costs. Student fees increased by $72 at UW-Madison, including a $59 increase to improve health services on campus. UW-La Crosse, with the approval of the Board of Regents, is seeing more than a $200 increase in student fees to support campus operations. 

In addition, with inadequate state funding, it becomes a struggle to sustain a wide array of classes, and more classes become harder to get into, extending the road to graduation. This creates a cycle of more students taking out loans to finish their degree, accumulating more debt. Along the same lines, class sizes matter when considering professors' and graduate students' capacity to support demanding courses.

Freezing tuition without state funding to make up the difference for five years or more does not create more access for students, but lessens it. At this rate, freezing tuition does not create affordability but squeezes out lower socioeconomic students because to compensate for reduced funds, universities increase prices for things under their control like housing, food, and textbook materials.

Eventually, the freeze will end, and if the UW System endures more cuts or no more funding to make up for lost revenue, I’m afraid in-state tuition could rise exponentially, hurting future incoming freshmen. However, a balance is possible if the state commits to funding education, so that down the road access and affordability are possible for future students. Education should be an attainable goal for all qualified students regardless of income.

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Quality education is a valuable engine for the future health of the state. The UW System and state Legislature are active partners in opening doors for each qualified student to attend college. A Wisconsin that works to extend opportunities by first investing in our students accomplishes and sustains our foundational principle, the Wisconsin Idea.

Carmen Gosey is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying political science and legal studies.

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