A higher percentage of non-resident students would be allowed to enroll at University of Wisconsin campuses under a proposal being considered this week by the UW System Board of Regents.

The plan, which would raise the cap on non-resident undergraduate enrollment from 25 percent to 30 percent over a three-year rolling average, has stirred criticism over whether it would make it harder for Wisconsinites to attend UW-Madison.

The cap increase would not apply just to new freshmen but the entire undergraduate student body.

The Board of Regents' education committee is scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday, and the full board is expected to vote on it Friday.

Officials said the new policy would actually allow more Wisconsin students to attend UW-Madison, and that it would mirror one in place before the university merger that created the University of Wisconsin System in the early 1970s. Materials prepared for the board also said UW-Madison is alone among Big 10 institutions in having a policy that formally limits non-resident enrollment.

But state Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, sent a letter Wednesday to the Board of Regents asking them to delay action on changing the plan.

"I am very concerned that this change will have the long-term impact of reducing access of resident Wisconsin students to UW-Madison," Nass wrote. "Despite what you may have been told by officials from UW-Madison, there has been limited consultation with the Legislature on this important access policy."

Nass, chairman of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee, added that he "wasn't given the courtesy of a briefing" until Wednesday morning, after his office started asking about the Board of Regents agenda publicly released on Monday.

UW System David Giroux declined to comment specifically about Nass' criticism of the proposal.

"As part of this proposed policy change, UW-Madison will adopt an enrollment management plan that would guarantee 200 new slots for Wisconsin resident freshmen," Giroux said. "That's an important step toward expanding college access for Wisconsin taxpayers."

The UW-Madison fall 2012 undergraduate enrollment total was 30,500 and included nearly 6,300 new freshman, the largest freshman class UW-Madison has ever enrolled, according to the UW System. It also says that of the 6,300 freshman there were 3,515 Wisconsin residents, the most since fall 2005, and among the highest freshman enrollments since the merger that created the UW System.

UW-Madison is seeking the enrollment limit change to increase diversity and gain more flexibility for managing its resources, according to the UW System.

The change would "provide Wisconsin resident students access to more diverse ideas and cultures by expanding opportunities to interact with international and out-of-stateĀ studentsĀ  while also increasing the institution's flexibility to manage its enrollment and resources," the board materials read.

It also said that as part of its enrollment management plan, UW-Madison will develop and implement a multi-year plan that will guarantee at least 3,500 enrollments per year for Wisconsin resident students in each fall new-freshman class.

But Nass spokesman Mike Mikalsen accused the UW System of trying to "spin" a policy that will increase access for non-residents at the expense of Wisconsinites.

"It's about money," he said. "They get more money for non-residents."

Mikalsen added that he suspects the university is also hoping to boost diversity and bring in more money by targeting international students.

Nass said in his letter that he asked interim UW-Madison chancellor David Ward to request a delay on the vote to allow for more discussion, but Ward refused.

A UW-Madison spokesman could not be reached for comment.

"The Board's action this week on this policy change will certainly instruct the Legislature on the level of cooperation that can be expected from both UW-Madison and UW System in the upcoming legislative session," Nass wrote.

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(11) comments


Good, we need some new blood around here.


Over time this proposed formula will see fewer Wisconsin residents graduate from UW Madison thereby further eroding support for the institution among the state wide population. This is a short sighted answer to the UW's fiscal problem. Anyone there heard of cost cutting in order to balance the books? Apparently not.


I'm open minded about this. For those of you making the argument that non-residents will help subsidize residents, though, that is only true if the non-residents are paying MORE than the total cost of education. Anything less, they add cost for state taxpayers and resident tuition payers to pick up in some way, shape or form. I don't see anything in this article that breaks down the math.


Do some of you just not understand how a public university works? Residents pay lower tuition as the result of money from the state taxpayers. Non-residents pay full tuition, as if they were attending a private university.

If WI residents want their kids to get into UW and pay low tuition, they have to support it with their tax dollars. Would some of you expect to get a Social Security benefit without ever having paid in? It's the same here. The UW can't do magical mathematics.

Simply put, less money from the state means less money to subsidize state residents. Either the UW can shrink, or it can increase the numbers of non-residents at the school.


I completely agree. That's the message that all legislators (and taxpayers) should hear: If you want affordable access for in-state residents, and if you don't want the UW System to increase enrollment of out-of-state students, you HAVE to be willing to support PUBLIC education with tax revenues. Put your money where your mouth is.


The 6300 this year was an error, no? Was the target lower?


They offer admittance to more students than enroll, as others take offers elsewhere. It's a pretty tricky formula. This year, more of the accepted applicants turned into admitted students than in prior years.


Increase the cutting of the state's funding of the UW ! Why should the Wis taxpayer subsidize the education of foreign students at the expense of Wis students? If one believes that this rip-off of the taxpayer will increase the number of Wis student enrollment , there are some "attractive home"s in NY city with "indoor pools" for sale,cheap! Do these Regents really believe that Wis residents are completely stupid? Dump those fools !


Great line of reasoning, scorp. If UW receives NO public support, how many Wisconsinites do you think will gain admission...or be able to afford it?

While I think UW should help Wisconsinites go to college, I also believe the state politicians and voters have made it clear they aren't concerned with public education or in funding it. Since that's the case, UW needs to find other ways to fund itself and this is one of those ways. We have brought this on ourselves.

Remember how that great "budget-balancing" Act 10 slashed UW funding but gave it more self-governing autonomy. Seems Mr. Nass (and scorp) now wants to renig on half of that deal.


Scorp, you have things exactly backwards. The out of state (including foreign) students help subsidize the Wisconsin students by paying a much higher tuition. This fact is not in question. The issue is accessibility for Wisconsin students, who pay a lower tuition, if we allow more non-resident students to enroll. This situation should hardly be a surprise, given the state's decision to cut funding to UW.


Considering the state provides only 7% of UW-Madison's budget, legislators would be wise to step aside and let UW try to make up for the funding they can't provide. And saying that there will be more slots open for Wisconsinites isn't spin, it's a fact.

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