UW-Madison is poised to enroll hundreds more out-of-state students, starting with next year’s freshman class, after the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Friday approved a request to waive the limit on nonresident students at the campus.
The Regents approved on a voice vote UW-Madison’s plan to lift the cap for the next four years, while enrolling at least 3,600 Wisconsin resident students each year. Regent Tim Higgins, who unsuccessfully sought to amend the proposal earlier in the meeting, cast the lone vote against it.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank has said the campus will likely enroll 200 to 300 more nonresident students as a result of the policy.
Blank and UW System President Ray Cross pushed for the plan, saying it is necessary to meet Wisconsin’s workforce needs as the number of working-age adults and high school seniors in the state is projected to decline in coming years.
They have denied that the proposal reduces Wisconsin students’ access to UW-Madison, telling the Regents on Friday that the university will enroll a greater percentage of state residents under the plan, because it will be bound by the minimum as the number of high schoolers declines. Blank and Cross have said the university will also step up its efforts to recruit top in-state students.
“We’re going to make a very strong commitment to the state,” Blank said.
Critics have said the proposal is aimed at increasing tuition revenue from out-of-state and international students who pay a higher rate to attend the university.
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UW-Madison’s student government and several faculty members have also criticized how the university crafted the proposal, saying it was done without enough input from shared governance groups.
Blank acknowledged Thursday that she did not consult the Associated Students of Madison before introducing the proposal but said she discussed the proposal with professors on the University Committee, the executive arm of the Faculty Senate.
Blank has also noted that she discussed increasing out-of-state enrollment at a February Regents meeting.
“I have been talking about this in a variety of different venues for much of the last six months,” she said. “So it should not have come as a surprise.”
Committee member and professor Tom Broman said that although Blank discussed increasing nonresident enrollment, she never provided the committee with any specifics of her proposal, such as the idea of lifting the out-of-state limit entirely.
The new policy received little opposition from the Regents, who said they shared concerns about Wisconsin’s workforce.
The most disagreement emerged when Higgins introduced his amendment, which would have required the university to measure whether the quality of its classes was improving as a result of the proposal, using metrics such as standardized test scores and grade-point averages. Several Regents questioned whether those were the best measurements.
Although Higgins said he supports lifting the enrollment cap, he voted against the policy after his amendment was withdrawn.