Wisconsin Legislature Adjourns 2023-2025 Session

The Wisconsin Legislature has adjourned for the 2023-25 Session and will now focus on the 2024 Campaign cycle.  Below are some highlights from the 2023-2025 Legislative Session.  

Wisconsin Grants Level Funded for 2023-2025

Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) resulting from the FAFSA Simplification Act are expected to increase eligibility for programs at the federal and state levels. Given this and a desire to increase grant awards to low-income students, WAICU requested a $25.5 million increase over the current funding level in the Wisconsin Grant appropriation for low-income students attending private, nonprofit institutions. The appropriation is currently set at just more than $57 million for the biennium. We have already begun working on our strategy for Wisconsin Grants appropriation increases in the 2025-2027 Biennial budget.

Financial Aid Modernization Act Update

WAICU worked closely with the Universities of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), and the Tribal Colleges since passage of the FAFSA Simplification Act to examine current student aid formulas and to identify the statutory changes that needed to be made, due to changes created by the FAFSA Simplification Act that will also impact state law.

The legislation passed the full Legislature unanimously and was signed into law on December 6, 2023 and is now 2023 Act 80. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2023/related/acts/80  Due to the enacted statutory changes in the Financial Aid Modernization Act and a new methodology for private, nonprofit institutions, WAICU proposed a new formula for private, nonprofit students that will allow us to more efficiently allocate our $28.5 million annual appropriation to students and raised the maximum award to $4,400. The Higher Educational Aids Board approved WAICU’s newly designed formula at their January 26, 2024, board meeting. Please see the revised formula here. 

Council on Veterans Programs

Legislation was introduced to add higher education representation on the Department of Veterans Affairs, Council on Veterans programs. Initially, only the Universities of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College System Representatives were included. WAICU worked with the legislative authors to successfully amend the bill to include a WAICU representative. This representation will be helpful to ensure the veterans education programs available at private, nonprofit institutions are represented with parity to those at public institutions. 

Scholarship Displacement Legislation

Legislation was introduced that would prohibit public and private, nonprofit higher education in Wisconsin from reducing institutional gift aid because of a private or external scholarship. WAICU worked with the Universities of Wisconsin and UW-Madison to oppose this legislation. The inclusion of WAICU in this bill is particularly concerning as the bill was introduced to address one student’s concerns over the Bucky’s Tuition Promise Program at UW-Madison, and all sectors were pulled into the bill as a result. The bill was not brought to a vote in the Senate Committee and therefore did not move to passage this session.

Higher Education Outcome Reporting to the Higher Educational Aids Board

Legislation was introduced requiring all institutions of higher education, public and private, to report the average salary of the institution’s graduates at intervals of one year, five years, and ten years after graduation. Every fifth-year institution also would be required to report the percentage of graduates by major who are employed five years after graduation in their field of cstudy, the average salary of graduates employed in their field of study, and the average salary of graduates employed but not in their field of study.

Institutions also would have to report debt levels of students and costs of attendance. This information would then be shared with the Department of Public Instruction and be included in high school Academic and Career Plans. WAICU testified in opposition, sharing that the data in the later reporting years could not be reported with any level of accuracy and given the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) impending Financial Value Transparency regulations, the new law was unnecessary. The legislature agreed not to move the bill forward to passage this session. But given the higher education degree outcomes, this legislation may reemerge in a future legislative session.

For more information, email WAICU Executive Vice President for External Relations Rebecca Larson.