In a recent comparison of University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it was determined that while both schools reside in the same system, face entirely different challenges. While they have different obstacles to overcome, they face the same hurdles of decreasing state support and a tuition freeze that has been one of the longest running and most restrictive in the country.

Comparing UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee is comparing apples and oranges. While both R1’s, they are two very different schools with different objectives and challenges. While there is certainly an important conversation to be had regarding UW-Milwaukee accessibility and affordability, we should be looking for options that don’t pit schools against each other.

Since 1974 we have seen state support for the UW-System decrease from 43% to under 15%. More state support for all UW-System schools so they can each address their unique challenges would move the needle significantly. Some might say #FundTheFreeze is the way to apply state support to this problem, but that is short-sighted.

Our schools need a long-term state funding solution that extends beyond one budget cycle, that doesn’t mix revenue streams (tuition and state funding) and contains a more thought out approach to accessibility than artificially holding tuition down from market rate.

For those who can afford market-rate for tuition, they should be asked to make that investment. For those who can’t, we should be looking for ways to make it possible. No one debates that a degree college degree is worth it – The Federal Reserve finds the average college grad makes ~$33k more per year than someone without a college degree – that is over $1.2M in a lifetime. Not bad for an ~$10k a year investment.

Expanding programs like Bucky’s Tuition Promise to be system-wide or cracking down on predatory lenders would be a more constructive and healthier way to address this issue rather than have our already starved institutions squabbling over the shrinking amount of public funding.

In that vein, what if we provide more flexibility to all of our schools – empowering administrators to address and solve the specific issues each campus faces. For example, UW-Madison was recently ranked 4th most affordable college in the country by US News. Considering the high volume of applicants and their socio-economic background, UW-Madison should have the ability to raise their tuition rates to better fund the University, other schools in the system should have the ability to keep their tuition frozen if needed.

Every school in our system is designed to do something different and faces different obstacles. We need to address those challenges with proper support from the state & institutional flexibility.

Our goal shouldn’t be to pull from one school to give to another, we need to aim to be in a place where we don’t have to.