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New UW president wants to continue tuition freeze

Emily Files
The University of Wisconsin System's new president wants to continue a freeze on tuition for in-state undergraduates.

The University of Wisconsin System's new president said Thursday that he wants to continue a freeze on tuition for in-state graduates through at least the next academic year.

Jay Rothman took over as president on Wednesday and held a short question-and-answer session with reporters Thursday. He said system officials plan to present their 2022-23 budget to regents next week and that the spending plan will include the freeze.

Tuition for in-state undergraduates has remained flat for the last nine years. Republican legislators imposed the freeze in the 2013-15 state budget. University officials complained about the freeze routinely for years, saying it hurt their revenue and the state wasn't providing enough aid to offset the losses.

Republican lawmakers voted last year to lift the freeze but regents chose to keep it in place for the 2021-22 academic year.

Rothman said his core objectives are keeping college affordable, maintaining enrollment levels and attracting students from underrepresented groups. Extending the freeze is a crucial step toward all three goals, he said.

He declined to say if system officials plan to ask legislators for more money to offset the freeze in the next state budget.

He also defended the regents' decision to hire UCLA law school dean Jennifer Mnookin as UW-Madison's new chancellor, calling her a “gifted academic." He said people will be impressed with her when she starts the job in August.

Republican lawmakers have bashed Mnookin as an extreme liberal, pointing to tweets in which she voiced support for COVID-19 vaccine mandates on California campuses and critical race theory, which purports that racism is systemic in U.S. institutions. They've also criticized her for donating to Democratic candidates and causes.

Rothman served as chairman and CEO of the Foley & Lardner law firm before the regents picked him to take over as UW president. He replaced Ray Cross, who retired in 2020. Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson served as interim president before Rothman was hired.

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