In-state undergraduate students at University of Wisconsin System schools would see a 5 percent tuition cut under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed 2017-19 budget, set to be unveiled in full on Wednesday.
The governor released his plans for UW System funding on Tuesday, with campus visits planned in La Crosse, Eau Claire and Green Bay.
The cut would be paid for with a $35 million bump in general purpose revenue, Walker said. That would come on top of a $100 million increase to the UW budget, $42.5 million of which would be tied to performance metrics based on affordability, workforce success of graduates, administrative efficiency, service and other criteria.
"The UW System plays a key role in developing our future workforce," Walker said in a statement. "Our investment today ensures student success by making college even more affordable, providing greater opportunities for students to earn their degree, and helping to bridge the gap between higher education and our workforce. We want our students to fuel the growth of our economy."
Walker first floated the tuition cut in his State of the State address last month. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters on Monday he doesn't see "excitement" for the proposal, and a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Vos supports keeping tuition where it is and would like to focus on providing adequate financial aid.
Spokespeople for legislative Democratic leaders did not immediately provide comments on the governor's proposal
The cut would follow a four-year tuition freeze, but also a $250 million cut to the system's funding delivered in the governor's 2015-17 budget. Before the freeze, implemented in Walker's second budget, tuition had gone up 5.5 percent annually since the 2007-08 academic year.
Walker's budget proposal would also allow students to opt out of paying allocable segregated fees that go toward campus activities and services offered by student government and campus leadership, which would let students "make the decisions on what they do and do not want to fund."
Those fees support the General Student Services Fund, WSUM student radio, the Rape Crisis Center, the Tenant Resource Center, bus passes, grants to student organizations and administrative costs for student government.
UW schools would be required to offer an option for students to earn a bachelor's degree in three years, which could save students between $18,000 and $25,000, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Walker has said his number one priority going forward is strengthening Wisconsin's workforce. His budget would require students to have an internship or other work experience before graduating from a UW System school.
The governor's budget places an emphasis on the UW Flex Option program, which allows working adults to earn a college degree in part by demonstrating proficiency they've gained on their own.
The budget would also offer $700,000 in financial aid for students taking Flex Option courses, and would require the UW System to create five new Flex Option degrees in high-demand fields by 2020. Also under the proposal, starting in the 2018-19 school year, no fewer than 60 core general education credits must be transferable between the state's technical college system and the UW System.
The UW Board of Regents would be required, under Walker's plan, to set a policy for faculty and academic staff teaching workloads. Instructors would be required to report the number of hours they spend teaching to UW administrators, and would be rewarded for teaching more than the standard academic load. Those reports would be made public.
Also under the proposal, the Wisconsin Rural Physician Residency Assistance program would see a $200,000 funding increase, and the UW-Madison Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center would receive $100,000.