Student Association welcomes Chancellor Gow to discuss a potential increase in tuition


Student Association logo. Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Easton Moberg, Student Government Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) met with Chancellor Joe Gow, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Bob Hetzel, and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Vitaliano Figueroa who spoke about the possibility of raising tuition. Following that, SA amended a resolution in support of continuing the extended Wellness Weekend.

Chancellor Gow opened the meeting by explaining the request for raising tuition. He said, “I want to make sure that you get the courses you need to graduate on time.” He further explained that he would be in a position where he would have to cut faculty and staff in order to pay them competitively compared to nearby colleges and other universities in the UW System.

Vice Chancellor Hetzel explained the details. He explained that due to the Growth, Quality, and Access Initiative, UWL students pay roughly $1000 more a year compared to other UW system schools such as UW-Oshkosh.

He continued to explain that since 2015, they have had to eliminate 50 positions. 42 of the 50 positions were faculty and the remaining eight were staff members. Vice Chancellor Hetzel noted that the elimination of 42 faculty resulted in 338 course sections being eliminated and said, “if we do not increase our tuition rates, we will be reducing faculty and staff once again.” To prevent the reduction of faculty and staff, Vice Chancellor Hetzel explained the reasoning behind the $25 increase in tuition. This rise in tuition would result in student workers getting a two-dollar increase in wages beginning next fall.

Chancellor Gow further explained that this will help the retention of faculty and stop the erosion of faculty that are leaving UWL. He also stated that this might not fix the problem but will sustain where course sections are right now. If they were going to add more faculty it would not be as affordable for the students and they feel as if that is too big of an ask right now.

There is also an Academic Initiatives Tuition where students pay just over $70 a semester. Vice Chancellor Hetzel said, “I do not want to reduce the programs that are funded by Academic Initiatives.” He continued by explaining that the Academic Advising Center, the Center for Transformative Justice, and parts of the Murphy Learning Center are all funded by the Academic Initiatives. The increase in tuition toward the Academic Initiatives Tuition would be three dollars a semester.

College of Business Administration (CBA) Senator Ryan Sperling asked Chancellor Gow, “Have there been any efforts by the UW System or UWL to lobby the State Legislature to increase pay toward UWL rather than passing these costs along to students?”

Chancellor Gow responded, “The money is going toward K-12 education and that is the top priority of the state legislature when it comes to education.” Chancellor Gow further explained that UWL has and will continue to fight for that but due to the political climate it is not working as efficiently and that it is an uphill battle.

Athletics Senator Lizzy Hanstedt asked Chancellor Gow when these effects would take place. Chancellor Gow responded, “It needs to go through the board of regents and that is going to happen in March.” Chancellor Gow continued and said that they are doing it early so that they can get rates done in the fall. This is so that prospective students do not get surprised by increased rates.

During advisement reports, Director Kyle Burke said, “the Counseling and Testing Center is happy to announce that the UW mental health support line which is open 24/7 is now up and running.” The number for the support line is 888-531-2142.

During organizational reports, Black Student Unity (BSU) Senator Alex White said that BSU will be celebrating Black History Month with “Reflections of Ebony,” which will happen at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 in the Bluffs room. This will recognize Black students, and Black faculty members and their accomplishments this academic year. They will have a guest speaker, Carolyn Colleen, who will speak about their role in the Fierce Academy. Tickets will be $5.

Senate Executive Committee led by Faculty Chair Stephan Mann plans to propose a fall semester wellness week beginning in the fall of 2024 that they hope to develop collaboratively with the Division of Student Affairs and SA. The wellness week would not include a scheduled day without classes but would rather have activities, programming, and strategy options for faculty to use to give students, a respite for a more committed semester.

The SA made an amendment to the resolution in support of continuing Extended Wellness Weekend which included a more “bare bones” approach as stated by SA President Grant Mathu.

This amendment reiterates that SA supports the mental well-being of students and the entirety of the UWL community. They hope that they will be able to work on future programs to replace extended wellness weekend in the event that it is not approved. The SA recognizes the temporary nature of the Extended Wellness Weekend which was created as a response to COVID-19. SA also recognizes that some stakeholders such as faculty, staff, and some students would like to explore other alternatives.