University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross is asking the Board of Regents to approve a $19,152,300 increase to the Wisconsin Grant-UW program during the next two years.
The grants are need-based and used by 70 percent of students. While the number of eligible students has grown in recent years, the program’s funding hasn’t been increased since 2009. Back then the average grant was $2,161, used by 25,624 students. By 2015, the money was spread among 32,885, dropping the average grant to $1,773.
“There’s a lot of students and families that are relying on financial aid as part of their journey,” said UW System spokesman Alex Hummel. “So, this is a recognition by the president, the system administration, and of course, the Board of Regents that this is vital support for them as they move forward.”
The Board of Regents will consider the increase request when it meets Thursday and Friday in Milwaukee. If it passes the Board, the request would have to be included in the next two-year state budget.
The last state budget cut university funding by $250,000,000 and froze tuition for four years. Gov. Scott Walker said the freeze was an effort to ensure affordability but that he’ll look for ways to provide assistance beyond that.
State Sen. John Erpenbach said the cuts represent, “an all out assault on the UW System.” He supports the increased financial aid because he says universities are a major economic engine for the state.
“The research that’s done on campuses and the jobs that result from the research and all the grant money coming in and so on,” Erpenbach said.
If the increase is approved and included in the budget, average awards would be returned to their 2009 levels.