The total annual operating budget for UW System is the largest ever. pic.twitter.com/m8vI3Uw2Hf— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) April 11, 2016
And I'm sure Walker cheerleader Tom Kertscher will be by in a few days to Politi-fact this take as "mostly true," based on the fact that the UW System will spend $6.15 billion in 2015-16, which would be its highest "All Funds" amount.
But here's why Walker's tweet is so disgustingly dishonest. The reason that number is up has nothing to do with the UW being "wasteful" or exorbitant. It is a direct reflection of higher tuition (more on that in a second), higher fees on room and board and income from other business-like auxiliaries, and the UW System grabbing more Federal dollars and gifts for research and other purposes.
In fact, the only area where the UW System hasn't received a boost in funding is from state taxpayers, whose support of the UW has gone down by nearly $150 million in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.
"But Jake, I thought tuition was frozen under Walker!" Not so. The first 2 years of Walker's regime saw 5.5% tuition raises, and even though regular undergrad tuition has been frozen in the four years since then, that's not the case for specific "differential tuition" programs. Nor is it true for out-of-state and graduate students at many campuses, who have seen their tuition go up in recent years. This includes 5 of the 13 4-year schools raising these types of tuition for next year. So even though Walker and the hacks who front for him may talk a lot of game about "tuition freeze", the numbers show that this freeze isn't applying to everybody.
The increase in tuition and fees in light of the drop in GPR tax dollars means that students (and/or their families) are now paying nearly $500 million more for the UW than the general Wisconsin taxpayer, with the gap exploding in the most recent year.
GPR vs. Tuition/Fees
2010-11 GPR 51.5%, Tuition/Fees 48.5%
2012-13 GPR 47.1%, Tuition/Fees 52.9%
2014-15 GPR 46.6%, Tuition/Fees 53.4%
2015-16 GPR 40.3%, Tuition/Fees 59.7%
Another way to look at this is to take the top line of Walker's tweet, and then stack up the four categories to show the changes over the last 6 years. As you'll see, GPR continues to fall while the other three categories go up, and take a larger share of the total expenses.
And here's what even more disgusting and dishonest about Walker's lame attempt to diminish voter anger against the defunding of the UW. If Walker and WisGOP were allowing UW to do more to make up the difference in reduced funding by encouraging high-level faculty that grab large amounts of research dollars, or were opening the doors to more students to attend the university, then maybe you could see some sense in trading GPR dollars for federal dollars and tuition dollars.
But Walker/WisGOP/ALEC are doing the exact opposite- the diminishing of tenure protections won't get the best and brightest teachers and researchers to want to come here (or stay here), and the dismissive treatment of faculty by UW President/Walker flack Ray Cross and the Walker-stacked Board of Regents is driving even more talent away (go check Chuck Rybak's blog for more on that- complete with Cross bringing a "no whining" button if faculty dare complain about the defunding!). In addition, Walker and WisGOP refuse to pass legislation that would ease the burden of the student loans that students continue to have to take on, and will not free up dollars for infrastructure that would allow for increased enrollment that might mitigate some of these state aid cuts.
So that's why that tweet from Gov Walker set me off when I saw it today. It's such a crass and dishonest way to try to frame the issue and trick the rubes who don't understand the multiple funding streams that allow the UW to run. Walker/WisGOP/ALEC are intentionally defunding the best generator of talent this state has, all in an attempt to pass off the needed service of higher education to the profiteers that contribute to their campaigns. And even worse, it's not us hippie liberals in Madison or the urban blue-voters in Milwaukee that are most damaged (Madison could "go solo" from the state and probably do just fine because of its donor base and research capabilities, Milwaukee has large enrollment and sizable research tools). It is the 11 "comprehensive" four-year schools outside of Madison and Milwaukee that need the state aid to supplement tuition as the main funding sources for their operations, and are the ones who have overwhelmingly Wisconsin-based enrollees, often in areas of the state that need the access of a localized UW campus.
It's a backwards mentality when it comes to having Wisconsin compete in the 21st Century, but since Walker/WisGOP/ALEC care more about grabbing campaign dollars and political influence over improving the state's economic performance and quality of life, they couldn't care less. Instead, they're going to try to play more "divide and conquer" in their quest to turn Wisconsin into a colder version of Alabama. How's that been working for us outside of the inner circle?