The University of Wisconsin-Madison has announced that as of this-coming fall, it will offer free tuition and fees to in-state students from low-to-moderate income families, whose households earn less than $56,000 annually.
Entitled “Bucky’s Tuition Promise,” this new program is among a growing trend in higher education. Several universities are currently working to redress economic barriers for applicants, barriers which many argue prevent prospective students from pursuing degrees.
At the time of the program’s announcement, Chancellor Rebecca Blank explained:
“Many low- and middle-income families simply don’t know whether they can afford to come to UW-Madison . . . Indeed, if they just read the popular press about student debt and sky-rocketing tuition, their assumption will be that they can’t.”
Affirming UW-Madison’s commitment to fostering accessible education, Chancellor Blank emphasized:
“We want to make it very clear to low- and moderate-income families in Wisconsin that we’re going to do everything we can to make this an affordable school.”
Of the Big Ten Conference schools, six other universities have made similar promises in the face of rising tuition costs — Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue.
Currently, in-state tuition and fees at UW-Madison amount to $10,533 a year. This is not far off the national average of $9,970 per annum to attend a public college, as reported by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that works to support student success through research, advocacy and transitional programs and services.
UW-Madison’s student government arm, Associated Students of Madison, has also asserted its support of the program and its effort to improve affordability for low-income and marginalized students. In an email addressing the AP, spokeswoman Courtney Morrison wrote:
“ASM applauds this action, and encourages the University [to] continue to strive to make efforts for accessibility.”
Considering that undergraduate programs typically span eight semesters — equal to four calendar years — one need not stretch their imagination too far to deduce that prior to the introduction of merit-based, affordable tuition programs, prospective students may have indeed assumed higher education to be out of their reach.
“Bucky’s Tuition Promise” seemingly offers the next generation of scholars hope, regardless of their economic status.
[CNBC] [The Hill] [AP] [National Post]