U. of Wisconsin-La Crosse Drops Plan to Raise Need-Based Aid and Diversity

October 30, 2007

The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse is withdrawing a contentious plan to expand its need-based student aid with an increase in tuition. The proposal, called the Growth and Access Agenda, would also have increased enrollment by 1,000 over five to eight years.

The university’s chancellor, Joseph Gow, said a quarter of the money raised by a $1,320 tuition increase over three years would have gone toward need-based financial aid. The other 75 percent would have paid to hire 130 faculty and staff members.

“Because we can bring in needier students, the hope was to increase diversity in the student body,” Mr. Gow said on Tuesday.

But state legislators failed to include the plan in the 2007-9 biennial budget because they were uncomfortable with putting increased tuition into financial aid. “They were not in favor of using one student’s tuition to pay another student’s financial aid,” Mr. Gow said.

In the next couple of weeks, Mr. Gow said he expects to propose a differential-tuition plan that will derive need-based aid dollars solely from state funds. The increase in tuition will not be high as $1,320 and will affect only students who enroll next fall.

He insisted that socioeconomic and racial diversity remain important goals for the university. But “we are not awarding financial aid based on race, and we will not do so in the future,” Mr. Gow said. —Mary Andom