Governor Scott Walker announced Friday morning that he would propose an additional two-year freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition. The governor said his proposal was a direct result of the recent disclosure that UW System will finish the fiscal year with about $1 billion in reserve. Last year, the governor called for a two-year tuition freeze after the university was found to have just over $1 billion in reserve.
The governor’s plan came as a surprise as the UW System Board of Regents met for a second day in a regularly scheduled meeting. UW System President Ray Cross responded quickly, saying that he will continue his work with the governor and legislature while thoughtfully and judiciously managing and explaining UW System resources. Cross told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he had discussed the possibility of a one-year extension of the tuition freeze with the governor’s staff about a month ago, but the conversation had been casual.
The Regent Audit Committee and Budget and Finance Committee met Thursday morning and revealed cash balance projections for FY 2013-14. UW System will finish the year with almost $1.1 billion in reserve, about half coming from tuition.
UW System officials say that about 80 percent of the funds are committed on some level (see below). UW-Madison’s share of the reserve is about $600 million, and Cross told the Journal Sentinel that UW-Madison is among the handful of campuses that could survive three to four years on cash balances without implementing major budget cuts.