The higher costs of racial diversity
When news broke last month that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse planned to raise tuition by $1,320 to expand and diversify its student body, it generated so much controversy that the university erected a Web site defending the plan.
Among those who contacted the university was a state legislator, who demanded, "Could you explain what I would learn about working with people of 'color' had I attended the university that you envision?"
Interim Chancellor Elizabeth Hitch said the legislator wasn't the only one with the query. "I had parents ask the same question, but in a less nice way."
Hitch and other architects of the tuition increase are eager to frame it as something that will benefit all students. If it's implemented, the $15 million generated will be used to fund the addition of 1,000 new students, 100 new teaching positions and an array of new student-support services. The tuition increase would be spread over three years. For the most part, faculty and staff are on board.
But some students, parents and politicians are opposed, especially to footing the bill for the diversity component. Nearly a quarter of the money would go toward financial aid and scholarships for low-income and minority students. Half of the new students enrolled under the plan would fall under those categories.
"I support racial diversity, but I don't want to pay more for it," said sophomore Jay Rumpca. Other students simply aren't concerned about the lack of diversity.
What happens to the Growth and Access Agenda has implications for the entire UW System, which is struggling with diminishing state support, shrinking numbers of low-income students and a lack of racial diversity. It will serve as an indicator of what the state wants from public higher education.
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