Higher Education in WI – Affordability Efforts

Bucky Promise Program Gaining Attention

In February 2018 the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced they would be starting the Bucky Promise for students starting in the fall of 2018. The Promise was a pledge from UW-Madison they would cover four years of tuition and fees for incoming freshman from Wisconsin who had an annual family household adjusted gross income (AGI) of $56,000 or less. The AGI is established by using the state median income, so for the 2020-21 school year the AGI threshold will be $60,000.

According to UW-Madison, in the first year of the program 796 students were covered, representing 65 of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, with 56% of those students being first-generation college students. The second year of the program had 848 students qualify, again representing 65 of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, with 51.3% of the students being first-generation colleges students.

When Madison announced its Promise program, six of the 14 Big Ten schools offered similar programs, but Madison believes its program is unique for two reasons: 1.) students do not apply for the program through an application process, program eligibility is determined through the AGI on the FAFSA form, and 2.) only income is considered, not assets, which means in a state where a farmer or small business owner may own property and equipment but may not have a significant income the student still qualifies.

The program is a last-dollar program, meaning students who have other grants or scholarships will have the difference covered by the Promise. The Promise will cover eight consecutive semesters (4 years) of tuition and segregated fees; transfer students will receive four semesters.  The program does not cover room and board. The program is only for students working on their first bachelor’s degree, students applying for a second degree, or an advanced degree do not qualify for the program. If a student qualifies for the Promise their first year, but their AGI increases after that, they do not lose their promise as the change in the AGI does not impact their eligibility for the program. However, if a student’s residency changes during the program, they will be removed from the program for future terms.  

Carthage Tuition Reset/Aspire Program

In September of this year, Carthage College announced it will be reducing its tuition by 30% or $13,600. The new published tuition will be $31,500 starting in the fall of 2020. Carthage will continue to offer scholarships and aid on top of the new tuition. Carthage said the tuition reset is about being more transparent about the costs of attending their college. A recent study by Sallie Mae shows many families will stop considering a college based on the published tuition price alone, not taking the time to do additional research into the number of students who receive aid, or the amount of aid administered. At Carthage, almost 100% of the students receive financial assistance, with $20 million being awarded to first-time students in 2018. When student aid was factored in, most Carthage students paid a net tuition price of $15,800.

In addition to the tuition reset, in the fall of 2019 Carthage started a new four-year comprehensive career preparation program for all students helping them get the most of their college career and preparing them for life after college. The program, called the Aspire Program, starts by interacting with the students from the first days they arrive on campus.  The program overall includes:

  • Year 1: Develop course registration, meet faculty and peers, build a resume, skill development opportunities.
  • Year 2: Sophomore leadership activities, develop professional plans, work with career specialists, skill development opportunities.
  • Year 3: Secure experiential learning opportunities, professional development conferences, contacting professionals within a given field, participate in job searches and graduate interviews.
  • Year 4: Apply for employment/graduate school, draft post-graduate professional development needs, develop mentoring skills.