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The Student Government Association is hoping to implement the Pointer Compact, otherwise known as differential tuition, in the spring of 2014, which will mean an increase in tuition costs for students.
Currently, every student pays $7,370 per academic year. That number includes tuition, which goes to fund things like cost of instruction, and segregated fees, which goes strictly to nonacademic things such as student organizations and health services. Differential tuition would be a $324 per semester increase in tuition, to be used only for the UWSP campus, unlike regular tuition, which gets poured into the UW System.
“It is kept on campus, paid for by Point students, controlled by Point students, and used for Point students,” Ryan Specht, next year’s SGA president, said.
Out of all the four year campuses in the UW system, UWSP is one of four that does not have differential tuition. The $324 fee falls in the middle range when compared to what other schools are charging. La Crosse charges $643.20 per semester, Madison $500, and Superior $119.
With Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposing a tuition freeze due to the recently discovered surplus of the UW System, it is possible that UWSP will not be allowed to implement differential tuition. Representatives from SGA made a trip to the Capitol in Madison to lobby the legislators to allow UWSP to implement differential tuition even if the freeze goes into place.
“What we are asking legislators is that we are allowed to play by the same rules that every other campus has played by,” Seth Hoffmeister, the current president of SGA, said. “It was very well received.”
Some of the differential tuition will go towards helping alleviate the bottleneck courses; the courses that are constantly full because students need to take them before moving on to higher level courses. Funds from the extra tuition will be used to hire adjunct professors to teach more sections where it is needed.
“Twenty-six percent of Pointers graduate in four years,” Specht said. “It’s a very, very low number. Getting bottlenecks taken care of means faster graduation time. If you graduate even a semester early, you just saved yourself three or four grand.”
Differential tuition would also cover the cost of adjunct professors, which would mean individual departments will have money freed up to redirect into the salaries of their professors on a career path. Part of the tuition will also go into academic support services, like the tutoring and learning center, career planning, and advising.
In the fall semester of 2011, SGA sent out surveys to find out what students thought of the Pointer Compact. The feedback it received showed that many students thought it was unfair that seniors would have to pay for things they would never use. As a result of that survey it was decided that for the first year only freshmen would pay 100 percent of the differential tuition. Sophomores will pay 75 percent, juniors 50 percent, and seniors only 25 percent. The percents will increase by 25 percent for two years until all ranks are paying 100 percent of the differential tuition fees.
The funds will be overseen by the Pointer Compact Advisory Board, made up of six students and two faculty members. The board will make decisions on how and where the money is spent, and will have the power to adjust the numbers based on the needs they see. However, every change the board makes to the budget must first be approved by the SGA.
Students in financial tiers above those who depend on Pell Grants to pay for their education will cover costs for those who otherwise could not. This is the largest portion of the differential tuition budget. Students depending on Pell grants would be at the highest risk of not being able to cover the extra fees and thus lose their ability to stay in school.
“There is the concern that if we raise tuition, these students get left out,” Specht said. “Even though they are getting funding from the state and the federal government, they are at risk of losing federal monies. There is no way to talk about this without saying it is a redistribution of wealth. Those who can afford to do so are paying for those who can’t afford to do so.”
Ryan Schwobe, a student who has worked on the Pointer Compact, gave his personal opinion on having students pay for those who are financially dependent.
“It is unfortunate that students without financial aid will have to pay more. Asking students who already cannot afford school on their own to pay more than is feasible will disenfranchise them. It is a necessary evil for the Compact to function properly,” Schwobe said.
When students were polled in 2011, 39 percent said they did not support the Pointer Compact. However 82 percent also said they were not even aware of it to start with. Specht said there has been a lot of philosophical opposition from people who think that the Pointer Compact will improve UWSP, but that campus should be petitioning the state for money instead of asking it of the students.
“I agree with this in a lot of ways; we need the services but the state should be the one paying for them,” Specht said. “It is a very valid argument I think we all can agree, but we also all have been watching the economic times the last couple of years, and especially in the last week, and that’s a very difficult proposition.”
The SGA will be taking a final vote on the Pointer Compact on May 9. If SGA votes to pass differential tuition—as it already has once—it must then be approved by the Board of Regents, the Joint Finance Committee, and the governor before being implemented.