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Doyle vows to keep tuition down in new budget

February 27, 2007 By Dennis Chaptman

State budget season got under way this month as Gov. Jim Doyle rolled out a proposed 2007–09 state budget that recognizes the importance of higher education and provides domestic partnership benefits for all state employees.

“We’ll make a strong investment in the University of Wisconsin System to hold down tuition,” Doyle told a joint legislative session earlier this month. “And every student on financial aid will see an increase in their scholarship that will match the tuition increase, dollar for dollar.”

Doyle’s budget provides $225 million to preserve the quality of UW instruction, research and public service, provide recruiting and retention funds, fund the UW System Growth Agenda and boost financial aid for students.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly says the budget acknowledges higher education’s role in strengthening Wisconsin’s economy and improves access to system campuses around the state.

“It’s a budget that will help more Wisconsin students from every legislative district earn four-year college degrees and use university resources to grow more jobs in Wisconsin’s knowledge economy,” Reilly says.

The Growth Agenda is a system initiative to achieve access and affordability for students, while promoting economic growth in Wisconsin.

Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for administration, says the budget proposal represents a significant investment in UW System campuses.

It includes $121.8 million in cost-to-continue funds, $33.7 million for the Growth Agenda and $28.5 million for financial aid.

“We are very pleased with the governor’s proposal for increasing funding for student aid, one that offsets increases in tuition,” Bazzell says. “And, importantly, the budget provides the money we need as a campus to support continuing operations.”

Additionally, the budget provides $10 million in funding for the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff. This is in addition to $5 million in funding in the 2005–07 budget for faculty retention.

“We need to meet challenges from a competitive marketplace to keep talented faculty in our classrooms and laboratories,” Bazzell says. “Recruiting the best and brightest and keeping them here is key to maintaining quality and ensuring continuing economic prosperity.”

Doyle’s budget also includes a provision that grants domestic partner benefits — which are increasingly common at other universities and at private-sector employers — to all state employees.

UW–Madison is the only Big Ten university that does not afford employees domestic partner health insurance benefits because state law prohibits the university from offering them. The university has granted all other benefits within its control to domestic partners.

Campus officials have long advocated to provide domestic partner health benefits, to both compete in the marketplace and as a matter of fairness and equity.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will conduct a series of hearings statewide in late March and early April to gather public reactions to the budget.