Governor Tony Evers recently announced his proposed state budget for the coming biennium which begins on July 1, 2021. He is recommending a 10 percent increase in funding for the Wisconsin Grants program for the first year of the coming biennium and another 10 percent for the second year of the biennium. Wisconsin Grants are the primary means-tested student aid program for Wisconsin students attending a Wisconsin public or private nonprofit college or university. Governor Evers is to be commended for his recognition of the importance to our state of increasing educational attainment.
Wisconsin is at a pivotal point. What we do now will affect the state’s workforce and economy for decades to come. It is no secret that birthrates have been declining while the cohort of individuals of retirement age is growing; already there are shortages of physicians, engineers, and teachers. Wisconsin will be in a ‘world of hurt’ if we do not increase educational attainment of all populations, including those who have been left behind. Across all WAICU members, nearly a third of students are considered low income. We know student need is great and growing.
Because of the pandemic some students have dropped out; others have stopped out. Because students and their families are struggling with unemployment many are not even considering higher education.
The Wisconsin Grant program, which began in 1965, empowers the individual Wisconsin students to pursue the career opportunities in their community for which there is demand and which attracts their interests. Throughout its history, Wisconsin Grants have attracted bipartisan support. Due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nearly all sectors of the economy, this will be a challenging budget cycle. The next few months will be an important time to emphasize the value of the Wisconsin Grants to state legislators, who will vote on the state budget. The Wisconsin Grants are an investment in students, and they play a critical role in meeting Wisconsin’s workforce needs.
Rolf Wegenke, Ph.D.
 IPEDS, Student Financial Aid Survey, 2018-19