Supporters of the differential tuition plan passed by the Student Government Association last semester were dealt perhaps a huge blow last week to their hopes of having the plan implemented in time for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Last Monday Representative Steve Nass, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, issued a statement to Senate Republicans, calling on them to delay consideration of legislation that would modify the moratorium on new differential tuition plans that was signed into law with the biennium budget last summer.
Nass says he is concerned that “despite the input of students” in the form of an online survey where only 20 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the plan, SGA voted 21-3 in favor of adopting differential tuition.
“The student online survey and comments make it clear that students have serious concerns regarding parts of The Pointer Compact,” said Nass, “The results and comments also show a real concern for the cost impact to students.”
University officials counter, saying that when looking at the survey a little deeper there is actually student support for an overwhelming majority of the programs that the compact would provide. In documents obtained by The Pointer, the university outlines that “Four components of the Pointer Compact have a clear majority of student support … or 81 percent of the total” cost of the compact.
Chancellor Bernie Patterson believes that SGA acted in the best interests of students when they passed the resolution in favor of the compact, saying, “They absolutely listened to student concerns. When you look deeper you see a different story.”
SGA President Ryan Rutledge says it was Nass that put the university in this position in the first place. “Nass is the one that backed the biennium budget and backed cuts to the UW System. He’s the one that put us here in the first place.”
Rutledge believes there is a real need for the compact at UWSP and that it is a necessary evil. “The reality is there is a fiscal problem on campus. Differential tuition is not something you can get excited about. It’s not a new building but it is your academic reputation after you leave.”
If the university has to delay the implementation of the compact, Patterson says it is only going to hurt current and future students. “We are going to be able to add 160 more courses through the differential tuition plan. It would certainly reduce the bottlenecks we are currently seeing in some areas.”
“Could we wait? We have waited this long, what’s another year? But that doesn’t seem fair to the students here right now,” Patterson said.
“UWSP will still exist,” Rutledge says. “But students are going to be hurt, initially with the lack of courses to clear bottlenecks and long term with less access to student research and the lack of services we really need on campus.”
It is not necessarily true that the university would be able to implement a differential tuition program in 2013 when the moratorium ends as the next budget could extend that moratorium further into the future.