Differential Tuition Passed by 21-3 Student Senate Vote
Michael Wilson
mwils249@uwsp.edu
 


The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Student Senate voted Thursday, December 8, to approve the differential tuition proposal, the Pointer Compact, giving administrators the go-ahead to carry the plan to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and the Wisconsin Legislature. If all goes as planned within the Old Main administrators’ timeline, the plan will be in effect by the next academic year.

The Pointer Compact, which has been in the works at UWSP for at least two semesters, will raise approximately $5.4 million annually through a tuition increase of $648 per student, of which $220 will ensure Pell Grant-eligible students are held harmless from the increase.

 
The proposal was put together by the Pointer Compact Development Committee, made of six administrators, including the chancellor, five students and three faculty members.

At the meeting, dozens of students spoke during the public forum, in favor and opposition to the proposal. Senior Jon Bohr said he was there "to speak the voices of unheard students." His message to the Senate, like others, dealt with the degree students had been educated on the matter.

"Instead of a sensible proposal directed at the students, the Student Government Association (SGA) distributed substance-less propaganda and conducted a survey in manners that had consistently failed in the past, without consideration of legislative measures appropriate for this kind of tuition hike," Bohr said.

Others spoke in favor of the proposal, such as 90 FM Station Manager Mason Meulemans. "Right or wrong, people on the outside of this university were only going to see the result of this vote, not the dialogue that was involved that lead to it. ... If the vote were to fail to pass, prospective professors and students may see it as a negative message ... that the students of UWSP only care about their education as long as more money is not coming out of their pockets, which could not be farther from the truth. ... We need to re-invest into ourselves more so than ever," Meulemans said.

Chancellor Bernie Patterson, Interim Provost Greg Summers and Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Greg Diemer were also present at the meeting.

Vice Chancellor Diemer told The Pointer that "UWSP needs this program to retain our academic excellence and ability to recruit highly motivated and talented students."

Former SGA Vice President Hans Schmid also attended the meeting and spoke during public forum. "Having been part of the early conversations about differential tuition, I know that this is the right thing to do," Schmid said.

"You’ll never convince the taxpayer to let you raise their taxes," even if the services will be to their advantage, argued Thomas Miller, Senior University Relations Specialist and a long-time student advocate in the UWSP administration.

Weighing the dilemma at hand was recognizably difficult for the Senators. "I don’t envy your position," said Meulemans to the Senate after offering his support.

Ultimately, students in SGA decided that these services merited the added cost to tuition. The vote was 21 in favor to three against and one abstention. Only Senators Nichole Guelcher, Kate Carson and Jordan Mcintee voted against, and Senator Rebekah Stuck abstained from a vote.

"Change is inevitable, [especially] when progress is the goal," said Student Senator Sonia Kurhajetz. "We educated ourselves, and worked hard to educate others on the matter, and came to the conclusion that this was the best path for our university to follow." Kurhajetz added that she was pleased as to how many students voiced their opinions at the December 8th meeting.

"SGA is committed to seeing the Pointer Compact implemented in the ways the students want, one big stipulation being that seniors will not pay as much as incoming freshman due to the fact that seniors won’t see the same benefits of the programs as freshmen will," Kurhajetz said.

According to the Compact website, "There will be an accountability report submitted by each area annually. These accountability reports will be reviewed by the campus Strategic Planning Committee." In addition, "there is a 5-year review process of differential tuition program at the UW System/Board of Regents level."

After the vote, students shared their thoughts about the results. "They’ve done the students a great disservice," Bohr said. "There should have at least been a consideration of alternatives and a clearer statement about how additional revenue would be spent."

"Personally I was relieved. I thought it was the correct call for the Senate to pass the bill despite the lack of student involvement in the dialogue," Meulemans said. "I made the argument in my open forum time that UWSP was a sinking ship that needed its holes plugged before we took on too much water. In my opinion, this bill was a band-aid that is necessary at this moment. The students of this campus are horrendous when it comes to educating themselves about anything outside of their own bubbles. Perhaps if Justin Beiber was discussing the bill, the students would have paid more attention."

According to the UWSP informational webpage about the Pointer Compact, the plan will:
- Fund a Supplemental Instruction initiative, a "peer-led study sessions" program
-Support free peer-tutoring in math and the sciences and free tutoring for students with special learning needs
-Support undergraduate student research and research grants, the freshman "First Year Experience" and capstone programs
-Fund a Service Learning program within a new Center for Academic Excellence and Student Engagement
-Create a faculty mentor program
-Add a "lab modification" fund

To provide these services, the Pointer Compact will pay for:
-Eight new full-time administrative staff
-20 additional nine-month teaching academic staff
-New student peer-tutoring positions