The future commission's report acknowledged criticism of the idea and potential problems in sharing revenues. The most difficult issue, it said, would be "perceived or actual tiering of campuses" and "potential negative impact on the perceived reputation or academic quality of some campuses."
In many other states, the practice is long established.
For example, the Austin campus of the University of Texas plans to charge nearly $4,900 in tuition and basic student fees in the fall, compared to about $3,500 for the El Paso campus.
"All of it is based on the ability to pay, for the population they serve. It has to do with what the market can bear," said Pedro Reyes, the nine-campus University of Texas system's associate vice chancellor for planning. The Austin campus enrolls a more national and international student body, while El Paso draws students mainly from its region, he said.
UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego could charge higher fees without harming enrollments, Reyes said. "I know the clientele could meet those pricing structures," he said.
The University of Wisconsin's 26 campuses include just two doctoral-granting institutions, and even those two charge somewhat different basic academic fees: about $9,000 at Madison and $8,100 at Milwaukee. But leaders of the Madison campus are now seeking independence from the system, including the freedom to set tuition rates.