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Memo: Wisconsin Students Can’t Get Higher Ed Grants Because Of Depleted Funds

Administrator Says State Dollars Supporting Grants Hasn't Kept Pace With Demand

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Thousands of Wisconsin students are being denied grants to help pay for their higher education expenses largely because there isn’t enough money to meet the demand.

The Wisconsin grants program has been around since the late 1960s. It provides need-based grants to state residents who are looking to pursue undergraduate studies at University of Wisconsin institutions, Wisconsin technical colleges, private and non-profit schools in the state and tribal colleges.

According to a memo released last week by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, about 3,581 UW students and 37,844 technical college applicants were denied financial assistance during the past year. That’s because the $58-million program ran out of money.

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State Sen. Jennifer Shilling is the ranking Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s committee on universities and technical colleges. She said the Walker administration and state Republicans are to blame.

“We have not kept pace,” she said. “We’ve made the choice that that’s not been a priority in our state budget.”

But Sherrie Nelson, the administrative policy advisor at the state’s Higher Educational Aids Board, which administers the grants, said funding levels haven’t been cut under Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure. Nelson said state dollars supporting the grants have either stayed steady or been increased slightly — but she said that demand for financial support has increased.

“There’s a lot of people that have lost their jobs so they’ve had to go back and get some additional training,” Nelson said. “So, that’s why we’ve seen the increased enrollments.”

The Higher Educational Aids Board is planning to ask for a $6-million budget increase for the first year of the next biennial state budget to accommodate those increased applications.

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously attributed a quote to state Sen. “Jennifer Schilling.” In fact, her name is state Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

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