Walker visits campus to talk tuition freeze

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday (June 4) reiterated his support for a two-year UW System tuition freeze during a press conference held in the MAC Hall Winter Garden at UW-Green Bay.

Walker praised the proposed freeze as “one of the most positive aspects of this budget,” emphasizing the value of higher education but underscoring the tough economic times for students and families trying to pay for school.

“We still provide an incredibly effective bargain for the education we provide. That certainly is not by any means being challenged,” Walker said. “But the reality is … no matter how affordable it is to begin with, if there are significant increases each year, it’s a challenge — particularly for working families in the state.”

Introduced and welcomed to campus by UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden, and joined at the lectern by students Anastasia McCain and Burgandy Brockman, Walker said that while the economy is slowly starting to recover, many individuals and families aren’t yet seeing significant wage increases. That can pose a challenge for families like McCain’s — two older brothers are also in college — and Brockman’s, with six children to put through school.

“The tuition freeze is definitely going to help me and my family,” Brockman said. “I’m the oldest of six, so I have lots of siblings that will benefit from it, too.”

Taking questions from news media, Walker addressed the issue of UW System reserves, a topic that has been debated as the state’s budget-writing committee finalizes its spending plan.

“I don’t begrudge the UW, or any other part of state government, for doing that (having reserves),” Walker said. “I think the challenge that I and lawmakers had with the System — not with our campuses — was the question of transparency and the fact that much of that amount was collected at a time when tuition was going up, and much of that came from tuition.

“We just think it’s more realistic to say, ‘you guys should build up reserves, but you shouldn’t do it on the backs of students and families.’ ”

Walker took questions from news media, some of which centered on the tuition and reserves issue and some of which addressed hot-button budget items such as K-12 school vouchers and Medicaid. The event concluded after about 20 minutes.

Walker’s office said Tuesday he plans to visit other UW System campuses in the near future.