Who supports in-state students?

Dear University of Wisconsin,

Welcome to the game of “who should pay for this?”  We here in Colorado have played this for some time and thought you might like some hints from our playbook (or maybe want to be horrified at the just how low the bar in budget-limbo can go).  Judging from some of the initial responses we’ve seen, you are already on track to deal with the loss of (more) state funding.

We see that you are looking to change your cap on out-of-state students.  Wise idea, guys, but we’re ahead of you here.  We have gotten out-of-country students excluded from the out-of-state list. Better hop to it.

So just who is paying? It used to be that state support was supposed to more or less make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, the idea being that the state was investing in residents’ education (this is behind the logic of making the bar very high for students to change their status to in-state).  Now? At CU, the average overall undergraduate tuition cost is something above $19,000 (it is a bit higher if you include graduate students and variations between colleges), yielding something near half a billion dollars a year (roughly double the money from research grants, by the ways). In-state tuition for some 14,400 undergraduate students was about $10,900 in Arts and Sciences (higher by quite a bit in the other schools).  The state kicked in $27.8M, about $1900/student.  Out of state? The 8100 students pay something over $33,000/student. So who is supporting in-state students? Of the $8100 they are not paying for the same education, $1900 is from the state and $6200 is from the out-of-state students. You figure the sales taxes the out-of-state kids pay to furnish and rent their dorm room and ski the resorts comes close to supplying the state with that extra $1900. (None of this includes housing and other stuff students have to pay for). Probably the citizens of the state of Colorado come perilously close to paying a net nothing for having the University of Colorado.

Thank you, out-of-state students (and their parents, in many cases).

Wisconsin is a bit harder to figure, but for UW-Madison, the difference in in-state ($10,410/year) for the 17,400 in-state and and out-of-state tuition ($26,660) for the 10,400 out-of-state students suggests that you guys are right up there with us in soaking the out-of-state students. Wisconsin doesn’t explicitly figure how much of the money going to the university is supporting students (as opposed to money for services from the university to the state), but it seems to range in the $16,000-$28,000/in-state student area.  If correct, this means that the state is presently picking up the difference in tuition. That will, apparently, change as UW cuts its state support by 17% or so. So while we feel your pain, you have a long ways still to go in the university search-the-couch-cushions-for-change sweepstakes. It looks to cost you guys $26,000 or so a year to educate students; it only costs us about $19,000. Of course, we have to empty our own office trash cans….

So UW, best of luck luring disaffected Chicagoans up the interstate or kids from the sunbelt to experience real winter before real winter is a distant memory.  And watch out for that budget limbo bar–it tends to go down in a hurry.


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