Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend an additional $150 million on Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges in the next two years. Evers plans to announce the proposal as part of his biennial budget address Thursday night.
The new governor’s proposal is a departure from his predecessor, Republican Scott Walker. Walker cut funding for the UW System and limited the universities’ ability to raise revenue by imposing a tuition freeze for in-state students.
Evers, a Democrat, criticized Walker for the funding cuts.
“We have to fund the best economic driver that we have in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said during a debate against Walker. “And that’s our University of Wisconsin System.”
Evers does want to continue the now six-year-long tuition freeze. But he contends the state should fund the freeze with $50 million of support.
And the governor thinks affordable tuition should be extended to undocumented students who live in Wisconsin. He proposes allowing DACA recipients — young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — to qualify for in-state tuition.
Evers is also trying to tackle a major concern of UW leaders: employee pay.
“The gap between our UW employees' compensation and that of their peers has widened in recent years,” said UW System President Ray Cross at a regents meeting in December. “That gap will continue to grow unless the state takes action to fund our request.”
The regents requested state funding for a 6 percent pay increase over two years. Evers is offering a smaller 4 percent increase, which would cost about $40 million.
The governor wants to dedicate $45 million to fund UW System capacity-building initiatives. That means adding space in high-demand education programs like health care, computer science and engineering. Ten million would be set aside for a nurse educators program.
Apart from the UW System, Evers aims to invest an additional $18 million in Wisconsin technical colleges.
The governor will formally announce his budget proposal Thursday night. Then, it will be in the hands of the Republican-led Legislature.
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