UW-L chancellor: The reserve fund is for specific purpose

College tuition has increased every year in Wisconsin for the past five years, making it even more difficult for some students and families to afford.

That’s why many are questioning the university system after a new report shows hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus in the 2012 budget.

A recent report shows the UW-System had a $650 million surplus, more than $400 million of that was made up of tuition dollars.

As you can imagine, for students and families who see tuition continue to rise, that can be a frustrating number.

But university officials say the money set aside at UW-L is sound business practice.

To hear millions of your tuition dollars are in a reserve fund can be a bit frustrating according to UW-La Crosse Student Association President Nick Bezier.


Bezier said the $414 million of tuition money in the UW-System reserve fund is unsettling.

“I am concerned with how fast that reserve balance has grown considering the tuition increases that we’ve had to endure for the past several years,” said Bezier.

At UW-La Crosse, $27 million of tuition is set aside in a reserve fund. That’s about 25 percent of the yearly tuition total.

Chancellor Joe Gow said it’s just good business practice.

“I would ask the critics what motive do we have to just sit on money? Why would we do that? We’re a not a for-profit enterprise so we try to spend as much as we can on the resources that make it a great university but we have to be careful on that and that means putting some money in reserve,” said Gow.

State Rep. Jill Billings said it’s not a question of whether the university should have a reserve fund, but what that dollar amount should be.

“I think the question is how much is appropriate to have in reserves and who should decide that number?” said Billings.

It’s a question she will work to answer with her colleagues in Madison.

“I’m on the colleges and university committee and we’ll be looking at that question, I’m sure,” said Billings.

In the meantime, Bezier hopes people will take the time to understand the situation as a whole, no matter how frustrating it may seem on the surface.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, let’s look at the numbers, let’s look at the different issues that we as a campus and as a system face and the funding that we need to address those issues,” said Bezier.

The Government Finance Officers Association said the university should have a reserve fund of about 25 percent.

With $27 million of tuition in a reserve fund, Gow said that puts UW-L right in line with recommendations.