U. Wisconsin Dean Apologizes For Calling Tuition 'cheap'

This story was written by Jacquelyn Ryberg, Badger Herald
School of Business Dean Michael Knetter apologized for calling University of Wisconsin tuition "cheap" Wednesday, after being quoted in an article printed in the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday.

Knetter said his remark was not meant to be insincere to those families who find the tuition at UW expensive.

I understand that UW-Madisons tuition is not low for some students and families relative to their income levels. I apologize to anyone who interpreted my remarks in that way, Knetter said. In sounding insensitive to those families, I was trying to be sensitive to families whose children are not fortunate enough to attend our university, but whose tax dollars already subsidize those who do.

Knetter said there are two options for trying to solve the funding situation at UW: Raise taxes for residents or raise tuition for students.

Jacob Stamper, professor emeritus of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, said Knetter was trying to brag about the quality of programs UW offers, especially compared to how much other competing schools charge for tuition.

[Knetter], I think, is looking at [tuition] like a corporate executive-type, Stamper said, adding UW has the second-lowest tuition in the Big Ten, next to the University of Iowa.

The popular perception in Wisconsin is [tuition] should be lower, Stamper added. In these hard times, when the legislature does not want to give us any money, [tuition] is the place to get it.

When Knetter made the comment Tuesday, he was comparing the tuition value between UW-Eau Claires School of Business and UW-Madisons School of Business.

A student attending UW-Madisons School of Business pays $7,800 more on in-state tuition for a four-year degree program than a student attending UW-Eau Claire.

According to Knetter, the difference between average starting salaries at the two schools is $9,000, in Madison graduates favor.

Project that over a lifetime. Even if the differential (cost) does not grow, the UW-Madison graduate will make $360,000 more (over a lifetime), he said. The tuitions are not that different, and the outcomes are really quite different.

With the average family income in Madison at more than $100,000 per year, Colleene Thomas, a student representative in the UW System Board of Regents, said there are quite a few people from the area who have a different ability to pay for college tuition than a family averaging $40,000 per year.

Certainly there is a demographic here that leads people to think that increasing tuition would be a possible thing, Thomas said. The reason this discussion is coming up is because the university system is increasingly being asked to find resources that do not come from the state. Even getting the cost to continue from the state is difficult now.

Thomas added UW is certainly not cheap, and there is a very significant cost of attending, which needs to be addressed.

I think that [Knetter] is probably getting at the idea that maybe students could foot a little more of the bill, Thomas said. But instead of a conversation about whether what we are paying is cheap or not, we need to think about how the university is going to fund the education of students across the economic spectrum.
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