UW System offers statewide tuition waiver program for low-income students

Some University of Wisconsin-System students from low-income families will have their tuition and fees waived under a new initiative announced by UW System President Jay Rothman.

The Wisconsin Tuition Pledge will remove remaining costs not covered by financial aid for students from families with incomes below $62,000 per year beginning in fall 2023.

At a Monday press conference at UW-Milwaukee, Rothman said some of the momentum from the tuition waiver was helping to get more college graduates to lock employers into “a war for talent.” .

“Quite frankly, if we don’t invest in them, if we don’t have more graduates, the big employers in the state of Wisconsin are going to have to do something and they’re going to invest somewhere else,” Rothman said.

The initiative is inspired by UW-Madison’s Bucky Tuition Pledge, which has used private donations since 2018 to provide four years of free tuition and fees to students from families with an adjusted gross income of 56 $000 or less.

The first cohort of students graduating with the help of UW-Madison’s tuition waiver program crossed the stage in May.

Rothman said that while the UW system is “very affordable” overall, it still isn’t affordable for everyone.

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He estimates that about 8,000 students will receive tuition waivers once Wisconsin’s Tuition Promise is fully implemented over the next four years. Average scholarships are expected to be around $4,500, but will depend on the amount of financial aid and scholarships a student receives.

The UW system plans to spend about $13.8 million in the 2023-24 school year on tuition waivers and will seek increased funding from the Republican-controlled state legislature over the years. following.

A UW System Budget presented to the UW Board of Trustees this week will seek an additional $24.5 million from the Legislature on an ongoing basis to cover the tuition waiver. The estimated total cost to cover about 8,000 students will be $35.6 million, according to UW system documents.

This won’t be the first time state lawmakers have considered funding Wisconsin’s tuition pledge.

Former UW system president Tommy Thompson included a funding request for a 3.5%, or $95.7 million, increase in state funding for the programs, including the promise of fees tuition as part of his August 2020 UW system budget. The initiative was backed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and included in his state’s budget, but Republicans on the powerful Joint Finance Committee voted it down. .

Still, Rothman is optimistic.

“I think we hope the Legislature views this the same way we do — as a great investment in the long-term success of the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

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