Tuition and Minimum Wage

Tess Zettle, [email protected]

Over the last 30 years, tuition has gone up by 696 percent per semester. The cost of the increase of college tuition, as well as government budget, is a concern for many people.


“In1985, tuition for an instate student for a semester was $1,077,” Director of Financial Services at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Cathy Reidl-Farrey said.


Because of inflation, $1,077 is now equal to $2,339.24. Tuition and minimum wage have increased in the last 30 years, but it can still be hard for students to pay for school.


According to the UW-Platteville Annual Report from the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 5,611 students paid $14,248 for the year for in-state tuition, housing, and meals. This does not account for any outside help from scholarships, loans, or grants. This year, tuition is $7,491 for a Wisconsin resident per semester, for a total cost of $14,982 for the year.


Minimum wage is $7.37 per hour and assuming the average number of hours worked is 1,965 hours per year, it would take about 37.7 hours per week of work, on top of class, extracurricular activities, studying and sleeping for a student to pay for his or her education without the use of financial aid.


The hourly minimum wage in 1985 was $3.35 and has since has risen to $7.25. The federal minimum wage from 1985 has increased with inflation and it is $7.28, meaning a person is receiving is 3 cents less on minimum wage than what they would have in 1985.


In 1985, UW-Platteville students were paying 29 percent of the cost of instruction, which was one of the least expensive universities then and still is. This does not include housing and food costs. Wisconsin taxpayers paid the remainder of the tuition costs.


According to a 1985 Exponent article about rising tuition costs, the vice chancellor discussed having students pay 33 percent instead of 29 percent of instruction cost over the next couple of years, resulting in increased tuition. The funds were used to support upgrading of campus laboratories and for new data processing materials for the library in 1985, with the money put toward helping partially fund projects those projects, as well as employee health insurance and salary increases.


Today, 20 percent of taxpayers’ fees go directly to universities, while 70 percent in 1985 went to help fund schools. The money the state once depended on has gone to other funds, cutting potential benefits for the university and its students. Because of the decrease in taxpayer funding and budget cuts to the school, the university is working on some cuts of its own to make ends meet.


“With respect to fixing the situation, we will need to decide on a set of budget reductions to programs, increases in some charges to students and others, and some increases in spending in priority areas to take place over the next two years,” said Robert Cramer, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services.


“Until Chancellor Shields announces the final decision on the reductions, it is hard to say what will be the most significant impact,” Associate Budget Planner Katie Curry said. “Our senior team and academic leaders have been very clear that they will do everything in their power to ensure that academic areas are not taking the brunt of this large cut, and that students are affected as little as possible.”


The number of students who depend on more than income from work, such as financial assistance to complete their education, increases every year. The university had the ability to award more than $600,000 from donor-supported scholarships last year. The university receives additional funds from alumni and donors in addition to the cost of tuition that students pay.


With the budget being cut, university officials have come up with possible solutions that could impact students.


“To fix these problems, the university is searching for ways to generate additional revenue or to save money in ways that will not affect our mission of providing excellent education to our students,” Curry said. “Additionally, our chancellor is in constant contact with our legislative representatives to continue to explain to them how devastating these cuts could be to our campus.”


General Program Revenue is generated by a combination of state dollars and student fees, and includes cost recovery operations related to instruction such as Distance Learning. In the 2013-2014 GPR fiscal year costs were $50,525,888 and have increased to $51,806,463, an increase of $1,280,575 in just one year.


The largest funding cut is from Auxiliary Enterprises, or auxiliary operations, including housing, dining, Student Union and parking. Last year funds were $34,687,482 and have decreased by $2,004,357, meaning the university is only receiving $32,683,125 this fiscal year.


Another section of funding is federal aid, including items such as special projects, work-study, student loans, grants, direct student loans and indirect costs. The total for the 2013-2014 fiscal year was $66,370,410 and this year $51,988,110, showing a loss of $14,382,300. All of the federal aid increased except PELL grants and indirect costs, with PELL taking a $600,00 cut and indirect costs suffering a loss of $12,500. Still, the funding budget has increased this fiscal year by $4,367,226.


When considering the future costs of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville might not be able to cover, Reidl-Farrey said, “When analyzing budgets, we look at cost reductions to redirect to the add costs or look at new revenue sources to cover the additional costs. This can either be a price increase, additional sales, for example, more students mean more sales for the university, or new endeavor, such as TSI, Tri-State Initiative, is an example.


The university budget is going through some major changes to ensure that students are still able to get the same dependable education they expect. For example, the Department of Media Studies will be moving into the School of Business so that the program can continue for future students.