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Blank proposes free tuition for first-generation community college transfers

Chancellor Rebecca Blank will announce a proposal that would give first-generation transfer students free tuition for at least one year.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank will announce a proposal that would give first-generation transfer students free tuition for at least one year.

Image By: Grey Satterfield and Grey Satterfield

Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced a proposal Thursday that would provide at least one year of free tuition for Wisconsin first-generation students transferring to the state’s flagship university, but only if the state provides “sufficient new investment” for UW in its upcoming budget.

“[First-generation students are] a substantial part of the Wisconsin population that needs more skills, and we want to provide them with that opportunity to come to UW-Madison,” Blank said.

While the free tuition proposal, titled “Badger First-Generation Transfer Promise,” hinges on financial support from the state, the changes to the transfer contract will be made regardless.

The transfer contracts are between UW-Madison and 14 two-year UW campuses, as well as some technical colleges. The new contract has several different requirements, like maintaining a GPA of 3.2, which is up from the previous requirement of a 2.8 GPA. Students would also need to complete two years of studies with credits that would transfer to UW-Madison, as well as signing the transfer contract within their first year.

The proposal came at the end of a speech that focused largely on problems the university is facing. Blank said UW-Madison is at a “crucial point for the university,” because of how it is starting to lag behind its peer institutions.

“I’m going to do something that most chancellors don’t do in these presentations,” Blank said. “I’m going to talk about some of the things that worry me, and that have to turn around if we’re going to retain our top ranking.”

She focused largely on the university’s falling rankings, which have been a trend for years, and the university struggling to retain top faculty members. Before discussing the proposal, Blank stressed that the university needs additional investment from the state during the 2017-’19 budget if they are to remain a world-class institution.

Blank said the proposal would help bring a “world-class education within reach for more first-generation Wisconsin students.”

If the proposal is approved, first-year transfer students from other UW schools or certain technical colleges who meet the requirements of the contract would have at least the first year of tuition paid for by scholarships and grants. Students who also qualify for Pell grants would be eligible for two years of free tuition.

Those who use this proposal could earn a UW-Madison degree for less than $22,000 in tuition and fee costs if they graduate in four years, according to university officials.

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