Understanding the Tuition Proposals

In the spring of 2015, I asked the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to consider a four-year plan for tuition increases for nonresident undergraduates and a selected group of professional school students. Not wanting to tie the hands of future boards, the regents approved the two years of tuition increases, and urged me to come back in two years to discuss approval for the rest of the plan.

The request we are sending to the board for approval at its December 2016 meeting completes the four-year plan. I have been public about my intentions to request these additional two years of tuition increases, including my speech to the Faculty Senate earlier this semester, to help students and families plan ahead.

We don’t make a decision to increase tuition lightly. We have a responsibility to maintain access to UW-Madison for Wisconsin students and to maintain lower tuition for our in-state students. We are also the flagship university in the UW System and our educational quality is highly rated in national and international rankings; we have a responsibility to maintain this quality. It is because of our commitment to these goals that we want to set nonresident and professional school tuition at a market rate. This will allow us to maintain quality in our educational programs, and cross-subsidize long-term lower tuition for in-state students.

The increase we are requesting for nonresident undergraduate tuition, $2,000 per year for the next two years, would bring that tuition to $35,523 in two years. This is almost $10,000 less than the current University of Michigan nonresident tuition and fees and about $2,300 less than Michigan State. The educational and research experience we provide rivals what you will find at any other Big Ten school, and it is important that the price of attending UW-Madison reflect that quality.

2016-17 Academic Year Tuition and Required Fees at Big Ten Universities

Resident Non-Resident
INSTITUTION Amount Rank Amount Rank
Northwestern University $50,855 1 $50,855 1
Pennsylvania State University $17,900 2 $32,382 6
University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign $15,698 3 $31,320 8
University of Michigan $14,402 4 $45,410 2
Rutgers University $14,372 5 $30,023 9
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities $14,142 6 $23,806 13
Michigan State University $14,063 7 $37,890 3
University of Wisconsin–Madison $10,488 8 $32,738 5
Indiana University $10,388 9 $34,246 4
University of Maryland $10,181 10 $32,045 7
The Ohio State University $10,037 11 $28,229 12
Purdue University $10,002 12 $28,804 11
University of Iowa $8,575 13 $28,813 10
University of Nebraska $8,537 14 $23,057 14
Public Big 10 Universities (excludes Northwestern)
Institution Resident Amount Non-resident Amount
Average Excluding UW-Madison $12,358 $31,335
Midpoint Excluding UW-Madison $12,226 $30,672
UW-Madison Distance from Midpoint -$1,738 $2,067

It is important to note that we are in the fourth year of a tuition freeze on in-state undergraduates. Our tuition for resident undergraduates, $10,488, ranks us seventh lowest among the public Big Ten universities, and our tuition is less than $500 above the third-lowest school, Purdue University.

While tuition for in-state undergrads has been frozen, and may remain frozen for the next two years, our costs of operation continue to rise. At the same time, the amount of support we receive from the state, a vital resource for our day-to-day operations, has been falling. Cuts to state support left us with an $86 million budget deficit in the current biennium, a gap we filled primarily through cuts to programs and services across campus, along with some shifts in student mix and increased nonresident and professional school tuition.

The increase in nonresident tuition over the last two years has not had an adverse impact on our ability to attract top out-of-state students. In fact, interest in UW-Madison by nonresident applicants has increased in recent years, and has nearly doubled in the last decade — in 2006, we received 11,284 applications from out of state; in 2016 we received 21,664. We expect these out-of-state applications to rise even more this year as we move onto the Common Application.

Using current nonresident enrollments, we estimate that this proposal would provide $9.6 million in additional funding each year. The new revenue is very important as a way to address substantial needs across campus, and all of the new dollars will be put back into support that aids the student experience. This includes expanding programs with high student demand (particularly in STEM areas), expanding financial aid, and investing in new technologies to support the delivery of education.

We’re also seeking approval to raise tuition in six professional schools: Business, Law, Medicine and Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine. The proposed increases break down as follows:

Proposed Graduate Tuition Increases

Current Proposed for 2017-18 Proposed for 2018-19
Tuition Increase Tuition Increase Tuition
School of Business — Full-time Masters Programs
Resident $15,894 $1,558 $17,452 $1,710 $19,162
Nonresident $32,164 $3,152 $35,316 $3,461 $38,777
School of Business — Global Real Estate Masters
All students $32,164 $5,146 $37,310 $5,970 $43,280
School of Pharmacy — Doctor of Pharmacy
Resident $18,008 $1,765 $19,773 $1,938 $21,711
Nonresident $32,809 $3,215 $36,024 $3,530 $39,554
Medical School — Doctor of Medicine
Resident $28,650 $2,779 $31,429 $3,049 $34,478
Nonresident $38,546 $3,739 $42,285 $4,102 $46,387
School of Veterinary Medicine — Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Resident $21,626 $4,000 $25,626 $4,000 $29,626
Nonresident $34,769 $6,500 $41,269 $6,500 $47,769
School of Nursing — Doctor of Nursing Practice
Resident $13,048 $1,279 $14,327 $1,404 $15,731
Nonresident $27,254 $2,671 $29,925 $2,933 $32,858
Law School
Resident $20,235 $1,000 $21,235 $1,000 $22,235
Nonresident $38,932 $1,000 $39,932 $1,000 $40,932

Our professional schools have built excellent national reputations, but they remain priced well below the market rate. With the increases outlined above, the cost of attending a professional school at UW-Madison will still be below the median tuition levels among peer schools. In some cases, tuition is low enough that top students hesitate to apply to UW schools because they think the low tuition must signal low quality.

Tuition increases are difficult, and I know that some families’ finances are already stretched. We deeply appreciate the contributions of our nonresident and professional school students and value their presence in our community. A share of the additional tuition will be used to increase financial aid in order to maintain access and diversity among our out-of-state and professional school students.

But our tuition levels also need to reflect the high quality of our institution, and must allow us to maintain our educational quality. Our goal is to do that while providing some measure of relief to Wisconsin families who have helped to build that quality through their years of investment in Wisconsin’s higher education system.

Read the full proposal to the Board of Regents, which provides much more information on relative tuition levels and these proposed increases.