I promised in my last article to talk about tuition. One of the components of the budget that we look at is what will happen with tuition. Universities, for the most part, have two primary sources of funding – tuition and general purpose revenue allocations from the state. If we look at the trend over the last few decades, we can see that, as the state allocations have decreased, tuition has increased correspondingly. Another way to say this is that Universities have needed to rely more and more on tuition as the state’s support (allocation) for higher education from tax revenue has decreased.
One contribution which tuition makes to overall funding, when approved by the state, is salary increases for faculty and staff. Unfortunately, amidst the cuts in funding, the faculty and staff personnel have not received a salary increase in four years. As a result, pay levels of faculty and staff across the University of Wisconsin system are 18% below their national peers. It is imperative that we support the faculty and staff members who support you in the classroom, in your extra-curricular activities, and help you to attain your aspirations. We are only as good as those whom we hire. Think about the faculty or staff member who has made a difference in your life. This person has choices available about where s/he wants to work and live – and we want them to choose to satisfy their ambitions here at UW-Superior. Salary levels also affect our ability to hire new competent, energetic people when vacancies occur, say as a result of retirement, among other reasons.
It is uncertain where the discussion on tuition will ultimately wind up, and conversations among members of the Board of Regents, chancellors, and UW System are taking place at this time. Universities like ours, in the meantime, are trying to find ways to be more efficient. We currently receive help from a company called Huron Consulting who advises us on recognizing areas where our work processes might be improved and refined. A report should be coming out later this month. The University is seeking, in conjunction with the University Foundation, avenues of alternative funding for scholarships and undergraduate research. This is a complicated picture. We could use your support as we seek a level of tuition that holds as low as possible the cost of education for students and simultaneously assists the University to retain the talented faculty and staff we have. I will continue to keep you informed as the dialogue continues.
Best wishes as we enter the final weeks of the semester!