Wisconsin Public Radio

Bill Caps Student Fees For UW System Athletics

Makes university building projects difficult to fund and reduces athletic funding at UWM

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Oct 8th, 2019 01:22 pm
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UWM Panther Arena. Photo by Carl Baehr.

UWM Panther Arena. Photo by Carl Baehr.

A bill introduced by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers would limit the amount of funding for university athletics and new buildings on University of Wisconsin campuses that can come from student fees.

Assembly Bill 373 was first introduced in August by state Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenvile, but hasn’t yet been scheduled for a public hearing. It’s garnered seven Republican co-sponsors along with state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee.

The legislation would cap what are known as student segregated fees that go toward intercollegiate athletics at $225. A report by the Legislature’s budget office shows UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior would lose funding for their athletics programs if the bill became law.

Murphy said fees at the Milwaukee and Green Bay campuses go toward Division 1 basketball programs that “aren’t competitive at a national level.”

“I’ve got a feeling that if we made them look for a different source for this revenue the discussion about whether that program is a good idea for that school is a discussion that we could then start to have,” said Murphy.

UW-Green Bay’s women’s basketball team has earned spots in the NCAA tournament 10 times between 2008 and 2018.

UW-Green Bay athletics staff said they wouldn’t comment on the legislation. Requests for comment weren’t returned by UW-Milwaukee or UW-Superior officials.

The bill would also require any new building or remodeling projects paid for with segregated fees to be approved by a majority of a campus’ student body in two consecutive elections. Murphy said it would set the bar “extremely high” for such spending.

“I very much would admit that is a very difficult level to reach,” said Murphy. “However, I think what it does is it would say you can use this method to fund this if you want but you really have to get solid support and if you can get that level of support then we’re fine with it. But if you can’t then you’re going to have to find another way.”

William Hansen, president of the UW System Student Representatives, said students enjoy the recognition that comes with having Division 1 sports on campus and he wishes lawmakers would try seeing things from their perspective.

“It’s always concerning to me and I know to a lot of students when our officials can’t really see it at our level and how much it impacts our campuses,” said Hansen.

Hansen said the limits proposed on segregated fees for new student centers or health center facilities could compound the UW System’s problems with deferred maintenance at aging facilities.

“Throughout the entire UW System, every campus is seeing the effects of not having enough money to fix their student rec centers or their student unions or certain class buildings, office buildings,” said Hansen. “So, a lot of things are being swept under the rug, which can affect our students both healthwise and academically.”

Listen to the WPR report here.

Bill Would Cap Student Fees For Athletics At UW-Green Bay, UW-Superior, UW-Milwaukee was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Related Legislation: Assembly Bill 373

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