UW-Madison Free Tuition Pledge Makes College More Accessible for All

Shot of a college student between classes on campus grounds
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A pro/con list is a great way to narrow down your college options.

Take, for example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro: I hear the cheese in Wisconsin is phenom.

Con: The whole “10 degrees and snowy” thing the state has going on right now.

Pro: Free tuition.

Con: Sushi in the Midwest is —  wait, what?! Free tuition?


“Bucky’s Tuition Promise”

On Thursday, the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced plans to make higher education more accessible to more people with what it’s calling “Bucky’s Tuition Promise.” (Named for Buckingham U. “Bucky” Badger, if you’re wondering.)

During the February meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System held in Madison this week, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank explained the school’s new commitment.

The university plans to cover four years of tuition and segregated fees (charges for stuff like student activities and facilities) for incoming freshmen from Wisconsin whose family’s annual adjusted gross household income is at or below the median family income in Wisconsin — which is $56,000.

Transfer students from Wisconsin will receive two years of tuition and fees if they meet the same qualifications.

Incoming students can begin taking advantage of this sweet new deal this year, in the fall 2018 semester.

The school wanted the process to be as simple and straightforward as possible. So, if an accepted student has filled out FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and meets the income requirement, the award is automatic.

There’s no separate application and approval process. As long as a student has been admitted to the school, and the FAFSA reflects the family’s adjusted gross income on their federal income tax return as being at or below the $56,000 mark, the entirety of their tuition will be paid.

Eligible students can also be granted assistance for additional costs like food, housing and general living expenses, but those are not specifically included in this new tuition promise.

Once the program is in full swing, the school expects to spend about $3.3 million on the program annually, and estimates it will cover about 800 incoming freshmen and transfer students each year.

The school says this will be funded through private gifts and institutional resources, not through tax dollars.

When it comes down to it, the University of Wisconsin-Madison really just wants to make a college education more accessible to people who otherwise might miss out entirely.

“Many low- and middle-income families in Wisconsin are simply uncertain whether they can afford to send their child to UW–Madison,” Blank said while announcing the new tuition guarantee. “Our goal is to ensure that anyone who is admitted can afford to be a Badger.”

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.