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UW System brings back $500 tuition credits for nursing, pharmacy students

Students who work at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities eligible for tuition refund

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A nursing student works in a simulation lab at Milwaukee Area Technical College
A nursing student works in a simulation lab at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Health care careers such as certified nursing assistant are among the top jobs of MATC graduates. Photo courtesy of MATC

The University of Wisconsin System will offer a second round of tuition credits for nursing and pharmacy students who work in hospitals, nursing homes or other health care settings.

This move comes as hospitals deal with an ongoing surge of COVID-19 patients and widespread staffing shortages.

A UW System press release on Dec. 22, said 1,000 students will be eligible for $500 tuition refunds if they work at least 50 hours in a clinical or health care setting before the end of February.

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UW System interim President Tommy Thompson said the goal of the refund is to get students trained and in the field helping with health care staffing shortages.

“I want the new Wisconsin Idea to expand from just educating anybody and everybody who can be educated to solving the problems of Wisconsin and solving the problems of a lack of nurses that lack of help right now,” said Thompson.

The tuition credits are being funded, in part, with $500,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Thompson said he’s working with Dr. Robert Golden, the dean of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, to raise a matching $500,000 via fundraising foundations.

The $500 tuition credits were first offered during the winter of 2020 amid another surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. UW System officials later said more than 1,000 students received the incentive.

Ann Zenk, the senior vice president of workforce and clinical practice with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said the organization was grateful for the extra help last year and is glad to see it back again.

“It’s really important that we use every possible strategy to grow our health care workforce,” said Zenk. “Because it’s getting harder and harder to find staff.”

Zenk said health care students who are still enrolled are able to help fill a variety of positions that are becoming harder to staff.

“We’ve got a new nursing shortage within Wisconsin,” said Zenk. “Respiratory therapists are in great demand. But pre-COVID and now even more so, it’s a lot of those important frontline support roles like nursing assistant, food service, emergency room technicians.”

She said those types of positions have often been staffed by college students in the past.

“And we did see during the prior UW program that several Wisconsin hospitals and nursing homes did benefit,” she said.

Debra Jansen, a nursing professor and associate dean of UW-Eau Claire’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said in an email that “at least 294 UW-Eau Claire students” received the tuition refund announced in 2020 for work at local hospitals during that semester’s winter break.

“While the $500 tuition refund was valued and needed by students, many wished to support and help their communities, regardless of the monetary incentive,” wrote Jansen. “Besides gaining hands-on experience, enabling them to hone their technical, patient education, and therapeutic communication skills, the students appreciated being able to aid their communities and to be part of an interprofessional team that worked to accomplish something much larger than their usual clinical goals.”

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