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Wisconsin Would Not Be The First To Alter Its Relationship With Public Universities

Katie Harbath, Flickr

Across the U.S., public universities are seeking less input from state leaders, on how to spend money, build and teach.

That's according to Andrew Kelly. He says this true for “top flagship universities in particular, so like the UVAs, the University of Michigan, Berkeley in California.”

Kelly studies higher education reform for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

He says the concerns public universities have when it comes to state control tend to involve competition.

“Being directly under state control may hold them back from actually competing adequately with some of the elite colleges on the private side. Not being able to raise your tuition to where you think it needs to be to cover the cost of a high quality education,” Kelly says.

When it comes to downsides regarding increased autonomy, Kelly says one of the biggest is decreased access for state residents.

“This is the tension that people are dealing with across the country is a desire to have an elite university in your state system at the same time that that state system is public and publicly controlled and nominally supposed to give access to anybody who meets the qualifications,” Kelly says.

Kelly says when universities or university systems are given more freedom, they tend to take on more out-of-state students.

And, he says, new university freedoms typically come with decreased state funding.

Gov. Walker has proposed a $300 million cut to the UW system over the next two years, in exchange for more autonomy.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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