Explanation of tuition increases for out-of-state and professional school students

Update: On Friday, April 10, the UW System Board of Regents approved tuition increases for UW-Madison as well as LaCrosse, Milwaukee, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout and Whitewater.

Madison’s increase affects non-resident undergraduate tuition and graduate professional school tuition (resident and non-resident) in selected schools. The Regents amended the request, approving the increase for the first two years (2015-2017) and requiring that the final two-year increase be brought back to the Regents for discussion.

As I’ve previously mentioned here and in public forums, we plan to ask the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to increase tuition for our professional school students and our out-of-state undergraduates. That plan will come before the Regents on April 10.

There are many reasons we need to do this. First, like all organizations and institutions our costs of operation – in this case providing a first-class education – continue to rise. In addition, we’ve fallen behind our peers, substantially behind in some cases, in these tuition categories and have some ability to increase prices to match the quality of and demand for a UW-Madison education. And finally, our institution is facing a difficult budget situation and increased revenue from tuition can help maintain the quality of the educational experience our students rightly expect.

All UW System schools have been under a tuition freeze for the past two years, a freeze that resulted from the controversy over the amount of reserve balances UW institutions should keep. Gov. Walker has proposed extending the tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students for the next two years, while also proposing a cut to state support for the UW System. In addition to the proposed cut in the next biennium, we are currently trying to manage a $23 million deficit that resulted from cuts in the past budget. Taken together this leaves us with a structural deficit of $96 million in the coming year.

We will be dealing with this deficit in two ways. First, we are making budget cuts in many of our educational programs (which is almost entirely where our state funding goes), and redirecting revenue from other activities into education (which means budget cuts in those programs as well). I will write about these budget cuts in another few weeks. We anticipate raising about $37 million in savings from cuts or redirected funds this coming year, which is about as much as we can reasonably do with just a few months of preparation. Second, raising tuition will also help us deal with the budget deficit. In fact nine system schools including UW–Madison will be seeking tuition increases for professional program students, nonresident students or both.

Our proposal is to increase nonresident tuition by $3,000 per year for the next two years, followed by increases of $2,000 for the following two years. By the end of the four-year period, our nonresident tuition rate would be $35,523 per year, more than $6,000 less than the University of Michigan’s current nonresident rate. Our peers’ nonresident tuition has been rising at an average rate of 3.2 percent each year for the last decade. If that trend continues, our proposal would place us no higher than fourth or fifth in the Big Ten by 2018-19, an appropriate position given our strong out-of-state application pool and our overall quality.

We are confident that we can implement these nonresident tuition increases without hurting our ability to attract top students. The interest in UW-Madison by nonresident applicants has increased in recent years, and more than doubled in the last decade from 8,908 to 19,310. Implementing a four year plan as we have proposed also gives our nonresident students and their families predictability in the costs of attending UW-Madison.

If approved, the nonresident undergraduate tuition increases will generate an estimated $17.5 million in the first year, and an additional $15.5 million in the second year. As I have emphasized whenever discussing this proposed tuition increase, we will have to increase financial aid to make sure we retain access and diversity among out-of-state students.

We also are requesting an additional $1,000 per year for international students. The cost of handling international applications is substantially higher than for domestic students due to a sizeable increase in federal requirements for how we monitor and process international students. As a result, virtually all schools charge higher tuition for international students these days. For example, among our Big Ten peers, Ohio State charges an additional $1,000 to international students, Purdue charges $2,000 and Illinois charges nearly $3,000.

Undergraduate, Nonresident and International Tuition

2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
tuition Increase TUITION Increase TUITION Increase TUITION Increase TUITION
Nonresident $25,523 $3,000 $28,523 $3,000 $31,523 $2,000 $33,523 $2,000 $35,523
International $25,523 $4,000 $29,523 $3,000 $32,523 $2,000 $34,523 $2,000 $36,523


The five professional schools for which we are seeking increases are Business, Pharmacy, Medicine and Public Health, Veterinary Medicine, and Nursing. The proposed increases break down s follows.

Professional school tuition

2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
Total Increase Total Increase Total Increase Total Increase Total
School of Business Programs
Resident $13,184 $1,292 $14,476 $1,419 $15,894 $1,558 $17,452 $1,710 $19,162
Nonresident $26,678 $2,614 $29,293 $2,871 $32,164 $3,152 $35,316 $3,461 $38,777
Global Real Estate Master*
All students $13,339 $1,307 $14,646 $1,436 $16,082 $1,576 $17,658 $1,731 $19,389
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Resident $15,157 $1,364 $16,521 $1,487 $18,008 $1,621 $19,629 $1,767 $21,396
Nonresident $27,614 $2,485 $30,100 $2,709 $32,809 $2,953 $35,761 $3,219 $38,980
Medical School
Resident $23,807 $2,309 $26,117 $2,533 $28,650 $2,779 $31,429 $3,049 $34,478
Nonresident $33,704 $2,309 $36,013 $2,533 $38,546 $2,779 $41,325 $3,049 $44,374
School of Veterinary Medicine
Resident $17,925 $1,751 $19,676 $1,950 $21,626 $2,150 $23,776 $2,350 $26,126
Nonresident $24,769 $5,000 $29,769 $5,000 $34,769 $5,000 $39,769 $5,000 $44,769
Doctor of Nursing Practice*
Resident $13,409 $1,400 $14,809 $1,500 $16,309 $1,600 $17,909 $1,700 $19,609
Nonresident $30,068 $2,000 $32,068 $2,000 $34,068 $2,000 $36,068 $2,000 $38,068

* Please note that all rates are Academic Year totals, with the exception of Global Real Estate Masters, which is only one semester, and Doctor of Nursing Practice, which includes summer.

All of our professional schools have two things in common: they have excellent national reputations, and they are priced well below their market. The proposed increases in Table 1 will still leave most of these schools below the median tuition levels among their peers. For instance, the nonresident tuition rate at our veterinary medicine school is currently less than the in-state tuition Illinois residents pay to attend their own vet school. That makes no sense.

I understand that finances are difficult for many families, not just those in Wisconsin. We understand that an increase in financial aid must accompany these tuition increases in order to maintain access and diversity among our out-of-state and professional school students. But it is important to set our tuition at levels that reflect the high quality of our institution, and to bring in new revenue to maintain our educational quality. Our goal is to do that while providing some measure of relief to Wisconsin families whose tax dollars have helped to build that quality through their years of investment in Wisconsin’s higher education system.

For those of you who want to read the full proposal to the Board of Regents, which provides much more information on relative tuition levels and these proposed increases, please click here.

Let me end with a note about in-state tuition. State residents have for generations supported UW–Madison and the UW System with their tax dollars. As a result of this investment, Wisconsin residents have had access to one of the top public universities in the world at a much lower cost than those from out of state. I agree with Gov. Walker and state legislators that keeping UW–Madison accessible and affordable is a top priority. At the same time it must be noted that undergraduate tuition revenue and state tax dollars fund virtually our entire undergraduate program. The majority of those funds pay faculty and instructional staff salaries, and a significant portion is put toward student financial aid.

Public universities are able to provide substantially lower in-state tuition because of state funding. As that revenue source declines, we must find other revenue sources or it will be difficult to maintain the same level of subsidy to our in-state students.

I hope that all of us can work with our elected state leadership in the years ahead to figure out how we can continue to make UW-Madison affordable for all Wisconsin families.