Thursday, November 01, 2007

Curving public education 

At the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, a planned shift to a high tuition-high financial aid strategy was explicitly designed to increase diversity. After outcry from the state legislature, the plan has been dropped.

The university�s chancellor, Joseph Gow, said a quarter of the money raised by a $1,320 tuition increase over three years would have gone toward need-based financial aid. The other 75 percent would have paid to hire 130 faculty and staff members.

�Because we can bring in needier students, the hope was to increase diversity in the student body,� Mr. Gow said on Tuesday.

They still want to increase student aid, but now will only do so through state money. The differential tuition plan, though, is still on the table, though for much less than the original proposed tuition increase.

Differential tuition charges are common practice in Wisconsin and many other schools. They make sense to cover additional costs, or sometimes as a revenue generator from high-demand programs (business schools do this from time to time.) This model at UWLAX though looks more like the emergency room model: rack up high fees on the paying customers to cover the cost of the patients who come in without insurance. Is there anything wrong with this? Given the negative response from Wisconsin legislators, my guess is that cutting into the middle class subsidy that is public education didn't go over well with the constituents.

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