Governor Walkers campaign is capitalizing on their tuition cap program for the UW system. As a political solution, such can bring about votes, so I can’t blame him… but just like we found out from the Nixon era, price controls rarely work, and the unintended consequences often come back to bite in spades.

Back when I was a freshman, tuition was under $500/semester. Today, such wouldn’t cover a 3 credit class,  much less a 21 credit semester…  so obviously something needs to be done, but tuition explosions, just like many government issues, are often problems of their own making.

Consider the following graph from the UW system factbook.

uw_costs

If you want to not only level tuition, but cut a deal to students, simple raise the priority of funding the UW system to the level it was at just a few years ago back in 2009. This isn’t a Republican thing, or a Democrat thing, both of the dolts over the last 10 years have had a free for all at the expense of the young.

I get that its an easy shell game to dump excess state spending onto the backs of students, being student loans are nearly unlimited, and students wont squak too much, but I think one has to seriously question the morality of doing so.

Granted, the UW system itself is not blameless. Overhead is crazy… for a faculty of 7000, there are an additional 25,000 other full time employees. Students amenities are massive compared to my day, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a will to do away with either.

By the same token, when you cap tuition, the slack has to be taken up elsewhere… and while I’ve been away from the UW for 25+ years, I seriously doubt the slack would be taken up by cancelling gold plated amenities, and/or reducing overhead. Rather my guess is the cost cutting is going to focus on the academic and research side of things…  It won’t affect today’s students that much, being things can coast for a while… but when you already had 10 years of reductions already in the queue, the potential for trouble is likely to be sooner rather than later.

So whats the answer? Cap overhead, cap amenities, restore state level funding (its easy as long as you don’t mind a criminal justice lobbyist crying in their beer [education and criminal justice priorities have reversed over the last 30 years [WI has 2.5x the incarceration rate as MN]], and a high level of education and research can continue with ease at tuition levels at, or even less than today’s rates.