OSHKOSH - There's outrage among some lawmakers that the University of Wisconsin System has been raising tuition year after year, while at the same time stockpiling hundreds of millions of dollars from the tuition collected.
Now the debate begins on how that money should be used, and if students should get a break on tuition.
Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently found a $648.2 million surplus in a UW System tuition fund.
"It's not exactly a surplus. The money is really committed," said Tim Higgins.
Tim Higgins of Appleton is on the UW Board of Regents.
He says only $207 million of the extra cash balances is not already allocated to university programming.
"Two hundred seven million is still a lot of money. But when you look at a $2.5 billion budget, it really only is three percent of what the UW total budget is. So it's really not a bad slush fund to have," said Higgins.
Students at UW-Oshkosh say if there is indeed a multi-million dollar slush fund across the UW system, then tuition should not go up.
"It's an opportunity to lower tuition and this is proof of the ability of it to be lowered. It is something that needs to be considered," said Zachary Denton, the Speaker of the Assembly for Oshkosh's student government.
Student leaders say tuition changes and the surplus will most likely be discussed at this week's student government sessions.
The chancellor of UW-Oshkosh told FOX 11 he didn't want to make a statement on camera about tuition changes until he met with student leadership.
Some in state government, though, are speaking out.
Gov. Scott Walker has called for a two-year tuition freeze.
But State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) says capping tuition isn't enough.
"We ought to undo the huge 11.3 percent tuition increase that the students were stuck with the last two years. The legislature ought to require an 11 percent cut in tuition beginning with the next budget," Grothman told FOX 11 on the phone Sunday.
Before any fiscal decisions are made, Higgins hopes the Board of Regents and politicians in the state can get on the same page.
"The universities have to work together with the governor and the legislature. They are not our enemies," said Higgins.
Just ahead of the release of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's report, the president of the UW System recommended limiting tuition increases the next two years to 2 percent a year based on Walker's proposed budget. That's down from the roughly six percent increases students saw this year.
The Joint Finance Committee will take up the UW system's budget next month.
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