Wisconsin’s educational leadership has united in calling on Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to reverse a plan to reduce Pell Grant funding for Wisconsin college students. Elizabeth Burmaster, State Superintendent of Public Instructions, Daniel Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, Dr. Kevin Reilly, president of the UW System, and Dr. Rolf Wegenke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities are banding together to fight the proposed U.S. Department of Education changes in allocation of federal student aid programs.
It is estimated that 5,500 students in the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the UW System, and the Wisconsin Technical College System could lose their Pell awards altogether. Thousands of other Wisconsin students would see their Pell Grant awards reduced between 9 to 13 percent. Because the State of Wisconsin has incorporated the federal formula into many of its programs, state aid programs will be affected as well.
Wisconsin, plagued by a declining percentage of its population with a college degree and a poor showing in the race for federal dollars, has witnessed a decade-long drop in the enrollment of its low-income citizens in post-secondary education. The four leaders labeled the change as “devastating” and called for a more deliberative, open discussion before changes are adopted in federal student aid formulas.
The proposal revises Pell Grant awards by recalculating tax allowance tables in the federal financial aid needs analysis formulas. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified Wisconsin as one of a handful of “high impact states” because of the significant difference between the current and proposed treatment of tax allowances for Wisconsin students and their families.
The four education leaders propose that:
- The federal tax tables be revised on a regular basis by law to minimize drastic adjustments.
- The tax tables be reevaluated for more accurate sources of tax data, as the current methods may not accurately represent the actual tax burden carried by aid applicants.
- The larger financial picture be addressed in context instead of a stand-alone attempt at federal aid reform.
The PK-16 Leadership Council, which is comprised of Ms. Burmaster, Mr. Clancy, Dr. Reilly, and Dr. Wegenke, is proposing to focus more of its joint action on federal threats and opportunities.