Over 100 University of Wisconsin System students gathered in the Capitol Monday to lobby state legislators for a cap on tuition increases and a larger investment in financial aid.
The United Council of UW Students, a statewide student advocacy organization, organized the Lobby Day where students met with more than 40 state legislators to discuss the impact of the state biennial budget on students.
UC Vice President Beth Huang said it was a “great start” to the state budget campaign and the first event in an “advocacy heavy” spring for United Council.
UC President Geoff Murray began the day by outlining the groups goals, including a three-to-four percent cap on tuition increases, at a press conference.
Murray said a tuition cap, which is not in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, is important to give current and prospective students protection from unaffordable increases in tuition.
UC Rep. Ian Reese also spoke about the importance of restoring the link between tuition increases and financial aid increases that had been in previous budgets.
Reese said he believes every Wisconsin resident deserves the opportunity to receive a quality, affordable education.
“We need more financial aid dollars in the budget so that every student who has a need can have that need met,” Reese said.
Throughout the rest of the day students split into groups by state district to lobby individual legislators, including a group who visited with state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison.
UW-Madison student David Vines told Risser students are “highly concerned” that without a cap they could see a large increase in tuition next year. Vines cited the last time the cap was removed, when students saw a 15 percent tuition increase in 2003, as an example.
Kayla Can Cleave, also a UW-Madison student, spoke to Risser in support of increased financial aid, saying she would not be here without the grants funding her Wisconsin education. Van Cleave pointed out that a majority of jobs in Wisconsin now require a college degree.
“For students like me it’s actually a matter of job and no job,” Van Cleave said.
Risser said while he supported the proposals, he felt they would be difficult given the partisan nature of the budget.
“Education is our biggest business,” Risser said. “What we’ll do is we’ll do our best.”