MILWAUKEE - College students are going to be hitting their checkbooks a little harder.
The Board of Regents approved a tuition increase for the UW System Thursday.
The 5.5% hike will affect students on area campuses differently.
The biggest hike will be a $681 increase for UW-Madison students next semester.
The increase will be $332 for UW-Oshkosh students and $328 for UW-Green Bay students.
The regents approved the tuition increase in a 17-1 vote at the UW-Milwaukee campus.
UW System President Kevin Reilly proposed the maximum increase for tuition for the sixth straight year in a row.
He said the rate hikes would help make up for cuts in state aid.
Funding was cut by $250 million as part of the plan to balance the state's 2011-13 budget.
An additional budget lapse withdrew another $66 million in state support.
"Our recommended 5.5% increase this year combined with last year's at the same percentage would result in a total of $110 million in tuition revenue to partially offset the budget cuts and lapses," said Reilly.
The regents said they struggled with the decision.
"I don't know how we, as a public university, can say well go someplace else if you don't like what we do. I'm not sure I am very comfortable with that approach of tightening," said UW regent José Vásquez.
Although many felt it was the only alternative in light of the financial situation.
"Unless we're going to ask students to potentially live with even larger class sizes and even longer time to degree, I think a 5.5% increase is really the only, at least to me, the only responsible alternative here going forward," said UW regent Charles Pruitt.
Nearly all of the regents voted to approve the tuition increase.
But there was one hold out.
"I believe that the entire state should be supporting the UW System, not the students and parents of modest means who will be priced out of the UW System," said UW regent John Drew.
After the vote, UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells told FOX 11 the regents had no choice.
He says the real challenge is how to get the tuition increase rate in the future significantly under 5.5%.
"That's going to require the cooperation of all the stake holders in this. The keepers of the costs, us, the state Legislature, governor, in terms of state appropriations for financial aid, and also just for us to figure out other ways to identify other types of revenue streams," said Wells.
A couple of students who attend UW-Milwaukee stood with signs in silent protest throughout the meeting.
LL Flores says the regents' vote was a disappointment.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do this year. It's really uncertain. It's going to be very difficult," said Flores.
The increase applies to all 13 of the system's four-year colleges, as well as its 13 two-year campuses.
The regents also unanimously approved a resolution expanding a provision that helps lower-income students.
The Wisconsin Higher Education Grant is the state's primary need-based financial aid program. The regents agreed to restore funding for the program that wasn't included in the 2011-13 budget, and to also include more funding in the 2013-15 budget to account for this year's tuition hike.
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