UW System regents vote 17-1 to increase tuition by 5.5%

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MILWAUKEE -- Tuition throughout the University of Wisconsin System will rise 5.5 percent for the 2012-13 academic year. The Board of Regents approved the proposal Thursday, June 7th at the UW-Milwaukee campus.

The measure passed by a vote of 17-1.

The increase applies at the system's 13 four-year colleges and 13 two-year campuses.

UW System President Kevin Reilly proposed the maximum increase, saying the rate hikes would help compensate for cuts in state aid.

This is the sixth consecutive year regents say a 5.5 percent tuition hike is needed -- the maximum tuition increase allowed under state law.

Regent Charles Pruitt said a tuition hike was a reasonable alternative to cuts that would lead to larger classes and students needing an extra year to graduate.

Regent John Drew said he couldn't vote for a tuition increase considering how flat resident incomes in the state have remained.

"I believe 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," Drew said.

The average annual increase at the four-year schools is about $400.

Lorilei Flores, a student at UW-Milwaukee, came to Thursday's UW Board of Regents meeting Thursday to protest the proposed tuition hike.

"I don't come from a wealthy family. It's really hard for me to try to pay for school," Flores said.

Many regents say they're concerned about students trying to come up with ways to pay for their college education. However, they argue the UW System is facing $250 million in state funding cuts and a tuition hike will make up only about one-third of that.

Tuition at UW-Madison this fall will be more than $10,000 for in-state students -- a $681 increase.

Tuition at UW-Milwaukee will be more than $9,000 -- a $422 increase.

UW Regent Katherine Pointer, also a UW-Madison students, says a tuition hike is necesary to make sure the university quality can be maintained.

"I know first hand, being a middle class student, working for your degree and also going to school. That's why it's painful and it's really difficult to vote for this tuition increase because I'm also going to be paying it," Pointer said.

Regent President Reilly says regents will lobby the state Legislature to stop the budget cuts.

"If the trends continue, at some point, we'll be at no state funding and we won't have a university system in Wisconsin anymore," Reilly said.

The Board of Regents says this tuition increase comes at the same time they're trying to increase the number of graduates from the system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.