from The Daily Cardinal, April 14, 2005

Students confront UW System president over tuition increases

By By Will McClain

Representatives of several student organizations gathered Wednesday in Tripp Commons to take UW System President Kevin Reilly to task for rising tuition costs.

Members of Associated Students of Madison and the Multicultural Student Coalition attended the roundtable luncheon, where Reilly spoke about the goals and funding challenges of a public university.

UW-Madison junior Josh Healey said the students had come to voice their opinions and to invite Reilly personally to a demonstration and subsequent march to the Capitol in support of public education next Thursday. Healey said the president declined the invitation due to prior obligations.

"He hasn't taken as strong a stance as we would want in keeping a public institution truly public," Healey said.

Healey added that being ranked slightly more affordable than several peer universities is not sufficient and that the UW System should work to set a positive precedent for the nation. He said he would like to see the state raise taxes on corporations and reduce spending on prisons to help fund public education.

"We're saying that it's bad and Wisconsin should be a model for what a public university should be," Healey said.

The students were told the luncheon was at capacity and were asked to relocate from their table to make room for paying attendees. The students refused, and were ultimately allowed to stay.

"I'm sorry to inconvenience these people who are here for a day," UW-Madison junior Sara Tibebu said. "I'm inconvenienced 365 days a year trying to work two or three jobs to stay at this school."

Tibebu said she felt let down by administrators, whom she said should be advocates for students. She said she faults President Reilly and Chancellor Wiley for not fighting harder to keep tuition affordable. She added the Board of Regents is also to blame.

"They aren't picked by me, they don't really have any accountability to me per se and I think that is a really big problem," Tibebu said.

President Reilly cited a $250 million cut in state funding during the last biennium as one of several factors adding to tuition increases. He called a modest funding increase in Gov. Jim Doyle's latest budget "symbolic," and said the university would fight for a "student-centered" budget for the next biennium.

Reilly said he feels it is fair to expect students to contribute financially to their education, given the inherent benefits. He cited a statistic that college graduates make an average of $1 million more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime.

"I'd argue that public university students do get their money's worth," Reilly said.

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