WAICU engages in continuous year-round advocacy for Wisconsin Grants. The Wisconsin Grant program is the primary state-funded, need-based financial aid program for Wisconsin students. Wisconsin Grants are an economic investment in the future for the state of Wisconsin as the grants help to provide opportunity for low-income students, who may not otherwise be able to pursue higher education, to earn a degree and help to fill critical workforce shortages in nearly every occupation. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has estimated that any increases in financial aid targeted at students below the 45th percentile of parental income will be self-financing through future tax revenue.
In the last session of the Legislature, Governor Walker and the Legislature provided a five percent biennial increase in the Wisconsin Grants appropriation. We continue to express our gratitude for this welcome increase after nearly a decade of flat funding.
Several months ago, I announced the newest feature of our advocacy, the “WAICU Ambassadors” program to enable students to move into leadership roles as advocates for Wisconsin Grants. In the WAICU Wisconsin Grant Student Ambassador program, students are selected by their financial aid director and WAICU through a competitive application process and receive training on becoming effective advocates. On April 10, 2019, WAICU held a WAICU Student Ambassador Day at the Capitol where 40 students and their staff liaisons visited their own legislators, legislative leadership, and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes to share their stories on how student financial aid has helped them pursue their degree and how they intend to become strong contributors to Wisconsin’s workforce.
Additionally, WAICU has sponsored an informational campaign in partnership with Wispolitics.com, Wisconsin’s premier political news service, to help our elected officials connect the dots that an investment in student aid is an investment in Wisconsin’s future workforce, a pathway to addressing Wisconsin’s critical workforce shortages.
Governor Tony Evers in his biennial budget proposed a 10 percent biennial increase in the Wisconsin Grants appropriation for students in all sectors. For students in the private, nonprofit sector this amounts to a $5,630,900 increase that would bring our biennial total to $61,992,300.
The Legislature’s Budget Committee, the Joint Committee on Finance, recently voted to maintain current funding levels for the Wisconsin Grants programs as a first step in the budget review process. However, the budget process is not done. Given WAICU’s continuous support for student opportunity and student financial aid, efforts will continue with the student ambassadors to share their stories and to share with policy makers that an increase in Wisconsin Grants funding is not only a win for students but also for the State of Wisconsin’s economic vitality. The student ambassadors are working hard. Won’t you join them?