MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) joined together today in support of recommendations made by the Commission on Financial Aid Consolidation and Modernization. The report, issued Monday by the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), presents a comprehensive analysis of financial aid – how it is reaching Wisconsin students and how, in some cases, it isn’t.
The Commission’s recommendations are significant because of the wide coalition of stakeholders who endorsed them. Under the leadership of HEAB Secretary John Reinemann, the commission included bi-partisan representation from both Legislative houses – Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Joan Ballweg – as well as students, and representatives of the Tribal colleges. The Commission was formed through a previous Legislative Council study, which involved financial aid experts.
Along with other recommendations, the commission suggested that:
- Wisconsin should adopt a measured, systematic method for linking student aid to student need. Even with the state’s current commitment, over 76,200 eligible college students did not receive need-based grants in 2011-12 because funding ran out. In addition, each year there are many students with financial need who are not eligible for any HEAB grants.
- HEAB should be modernized, to serve as a “one-stop shop” for financial aid data. Investments in the agency would improve the administration of statewide aid programs. Timely, accurate data about those programs would help lawmakers and administrators make informed decisions.
- HEAB officials and representatives of all public and private higher-education sectors should expand outreach to the Legislature, explaining the avenues and options for financial aid. Such an effort might include regular joint informational sessions in the Capitol, as well as ongoing efforts to improve communication.
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly applauded the commission for its thorough analysis.
“This report underscores the value of a college degree, the broad benefits of having a stronger Wisconsin workforce, and the importance of affordable college access. UW institutions are doing a good job of holding costs down, but need-based student aid plays an important role in reducing the ‘net price’ that students pay,” Reilly said. “As the report recommends, we must safeguard current aid programs while looking for responsible ways to serve more hardworking UW students. We look forward to working with the Legislature on these important issues, building on the commission’s solid recommendations.”
WAICU President Rolf Wegenke praised the commission’s unanimous, bipartisan conclusions, noting that student aid is a driver of economic growth.
“We only need to look next door to Minnesota – a state with similar climate, traditions, and population. Wisconsin ranks 26th in the country in the percent of its population with baccalaureate degrees and 26th in per capita income. Minnesota ranks 11th in the country in the percent of its population with a college degree and 11th in per capita income. The alignment – 26th and 26th and 11th and 11th – could not be more dramatic. Equally telling is the student financial aid comparison: Wisconsin ranks 30th of the 50 states in per capita grant aid provided to in-state students, while Minnesota is in 13th place,” Dr. Wegenke said.
Kathleen Cullen, Vice President of Teaching and Learning at WTCS, said “State financial aid is particularly important to WTCS students, who are more likely to be responsible for funding their education as independent students and who may be first in their families to attend college. Implementing the Commission’s recommendations will be important for improving the ability of students to earn credentials and enter the workforce to support Wisconsin’s economic growth.”
College of Menominee Nation President Dr. Verna Fowler encouraged support of the commission’s recommendations as a positive step in securing aid for Wisconsin’s most disadvantaged students.
“In almost every measure, the Wisconsin students attending tribal colleges are the most disadvantaged of the disadvantaged in our state. The commission’s recommendations address significant problems and could help resolve some of the barriers that are faced by our students and our schools, with a more realistic link between tuition and aid appropriations being a prime example. We continue to say that education is the best anti-poverty program there is. Our state leadership is encouraged to look closely at these recommendations and respond positively,” Dr. Fowler said.
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|David F. Giroux