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We’re Asking For $25.5 Million of Additional Aid for Wisconsin’s Neediest Students

It is budget season in Wisconsin. As the state legislature and executive branch begin the biennial budget process, many proposals are floating around. Governor Tony Evers has laid out his priorities and leadership in the legislature has shared theirs as well. All of this is during the largest budget surplus in state history, more than $7 billion. It certainly is an interesting time to begin my role as WAICU President and engage with lawmakers.

As we make our way around the Capitol talking to the Governor and legislators, we are sharing WAICU’s top budget priority — an increase to the Wisconsin Grant Program. We are asking that an additional $25.5 million be included in the biennial state budget to support students with need. This increase accounts for inflation and recent changes passed by Congress in the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) Simplification Act. Increased funds would also be used to modernize the Wisconsin Grant formula, which has been in the state statutes for half a century.

The Wisconsin Grant is a proven, cost-effective vehicle for expanding opportunity. By expanding state grant aid and targeting students, who, without help, might not attend a college or university at all, Wisconsin will expand its qualified workforce. State appropriations for need-based aid also help ensure that low-income students who do enroll in college emerge with an on-time degree with less debt.

Our graduates are helping to move Wisconsin forward. WAICU members produce more than 13,400 graduates annually, making up 24 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and 34 percent of all advanced degrees in the state. And the impact in high-demand occupations is even greater. We produce more than a quarter of bachelor’s degrees in business and engineering, 56 percent of bachelor’s degrees in nursing, and 55 percent of physician assistant degrees. Our institutions are making a significant impact on the Wisconsin workforce, all with no direct operating support from taxpayers.

Our institutions are making a substantial investment in their students. A full two-thirds of grant aid distributed to students enrolled in WAICU-member schools are private funds provided by the institutions themselves. The Wisconsin Grant and funds from the federal government, targeted to students with demonstrated financial need, can make a real difference in helping students enroll in and graduate from college.

By working together, we will produce the graduates our state needs to fill current and future job openings. Wisconsin needs a strong and robust workforce, and we are the state’s partner in working to help fill critical workforce needs.