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Programs make UW–Madison affordable, accessible

May 30, 2023 By Doug Erickson
Some students wearing sweatshirts and backpacks walk on a sidewalk.

Students walk up Bascom Hill during fall semester 2022. Photo: Bryce Richter

Editor’s note: When it comes to helping Wisconsin residents and the state’s economy, you Can’t Stop a Badger. See how UW–Madison offers service to the state, and maintains access and affordability for everyone. Follow along using #CantStopABadger on social media. Your support can help us continue this work.

The numbers show it: UW–Madison is laser-focused on affordability. Sixty-three percent of undergraduates are completing their bachelor’s degrees without student debt, a percentage that keeps improving and is up from 50 percent just seven years ago.

Many scholarships, programs and initiatives help make this happen, with new ones continually added. Bucky’s Pell Pathway, announced in February by Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, will begin benefitting new students this fall. Here’s a look at a few of the most powerful ways UW–Madison makes sure that Wisconsin resident students from lower- to moderate-income families can afford the state’s flagship university.

Bucky’s Tuition Promise

Announced in 2018, this groundbreaking initiative guarantees scholarships and grants to cover tuition and segregated fees for Wisconsin resident students whose annual household adjusted income is $65,000 or less. Incoming freshmen receive four years of tuition, transfer students two years. The threshold for eligibility is set so that roughly half of all households in the state qualify.

Bucky’s Tuition Promise has now been awarded to 4,888 students.

“Bucky’s Tuition Promise is allowing some of our brightest youth to achieve dreams that otherwise may have been out of their reach,” says Chelsea Roberts, a school counselor at Gibraltar High School in Door County.

Read how Bucky’s Tuition Promise has changed lives.

Bucky’s Pell Pathway

Bucky’s Pell Pathway goes beyond Bucky’s Tuition Promise by pledging to meet the full financial need for four years for new first-year Wisconsin resident students who qualify for Pell Grants, the federal program that plays a crucial role in expanding college access for students in low-income households. Transfer students from Wisconsin meeting the same criteria will receive two years of full-need funding.

The guarantee covers not just tuition and fees, but also housing, meals, books and most other educational expenses.

“Bucky’s Pell Pathway will, in most instances, allow recipients to complete a four-year degree without taking on debt to cover their educational expenses,” Chancellor Mnookin said in announcing the initiative in February.

Jeff Eide, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, praises Bucky’s Pell Pathway, saying it will open opportunities for students across the state.

Read more about the launch of Bucky’s Pell Pathway.

Badger Promise

Originally announced in February 2017, Badger Promise is a commitment to first-generation Wisconsin transfer students.

The program guarantees a period of free tuition and segregated fees to those who have successfully transferred from any of the two-year UW Branch campuses (formerly UW Colleges) or from liberal arts associate degree programs at Madison College (Madison Area Technical College), Milwaukee Area Technical College, Western Technical College, Nicolet College, the College of Menominee Nation, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, and Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Abby Harrison was attending UW–Manitowoc when she first heard about Badger Promise.

“I thought ‘This is me! I can actually go to a four-year school and not worry about finances,’” says Harrison, who ultimately transferred to UW–Madison.

Read about the launch of the program.

Teacher Pledge Program

The UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge Program offers financial support to future Wisconsin teachers.

The UW–Madison School of Education pledges to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for teacher education students. In return, the students pledge to work at a Wisconsin PK-12 public or private school for three to four years after graduation.

“The financial assistance of the Teacher Pledge is incredibly helpful for someone who is supporting herself through school,” says Katie Swope, a UW–Madison senior who graduated this spring from an elementary education program.

The innovative program is aimed at both supporting future educators and offering solutions to the teacher shortage. At of the start of the 2023 spring semester, 556 students had taken the Teacher Pledge, and 226 Pledge alumni are now teaching in classrooms across 65 Wisconsin public school districts and 11 private schools. And those numbers continue to grow.

Learn more about the Teacher Pledge, which was recently extended.

The Fund for Wisconsin Scholars

The Fund for Wisconsin Scholars provides need-based grants to graduates of Wisconsin public high schools attending a University of Wisconsin System school — including UW–Madison — or a Wisconsin Technical College System school. These grants help reduce financial barriers and lighten the debt load for many Wisconsin students.

The fund is a private, nonprofit foundation established in 2007 by a gift of $175 million from John and Tashia Morgridge, alumni of UW–Madison. The foundation is built on the belief that every person has equal value and the potential to create one’s own future and the future of our society, and that the attainment of higher education leads to improved physical and emotional health, increased moral and ethical thinking, and increased civic involvement.

As of May this year, the fund had provided more than $125 million in need-based grants and stipends to more than 25,000 recent graduates of Wisconsin public high schools who are attending a University of Wisconsin university or a Wisconsin Technical College System school.

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