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-state students 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.