Wisconsin lawmakers decline to expand free college program

by Jeremy

Dive Brief:

  • Wisconsin lawmakers declined to fund an expansion to a free college program that would have allowed low- and middle-income students to attend any University of Wisconsin System campus tuition-free.
  • The legislature’s Republican-led Joint Committee on Finance stripped from the state budget $39 million over two years that Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, requested the initiative.
  • The now-defunct proposal would have replicated Bucky’s Tuition Promise — a program at the state’s flagship institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison — at all UW campuses.

Dive Insight:

UW-Madison’s promise program allows students from households with an adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less a year to attend the institution tuition-free. It started in fall 2018 and covers four years of school for first-year students and two years for transfer students.  As with many free college programs, Bucky’s Promise is the last dollar, meaning it considers other forms of financial aid before paying any remaining tuition. Last-dollar programs can be less expensive for colleges and

states to operate than their first-dollar counterparts, which do not consider other financial assistance.  Interim UW system President Tommy Thompson, a former Republican governor of Wisconsin, asked for money in his budget appeal to the state in August to extend the program to all UW institutions. It was part of a budget request seeking a 3.5% bump in state appropriations for the system, which would amount to $95.7 million more in Wisconsin’s biennial budget.

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