This year, 923 new UW-Madison in-state students were granted free undergraduate tuition, the largest cohort yet to benefit from “Bucky’s Tuition Promise” for low and middle-income students.
The promise, first introduced for incoming students in the fall of 2018, vows to cover full tuition and segregated fees for incoming freshman or transfer students who are residents of Wisconsin and have maximum household adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $60,000.
In 2018, family AGIs had to measure below the $56,000 approximation of median family income in the state of Wisconsin for tuition promise qualification.
Incoming freshmen who fit Bucky’s Tuition Promise criteria and have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be guaranteed Bucky’s Tuition Promise — complete with tuition and segregated fee coverage for eight consecutive semesters upon admission to the university.
Transfer students who fit the criteria may receive tuition and segregated fees for four consecutive semesters, which is the equivalent of two undergraduate years.
“Our goal is to ensure that anyone who is admitted can afford to be a Badger,” said Chancellor Blank at the 2018 Board of Regents meeting where she first introduced the program.
In this year’s class of 2024, 755 of the 7,306 enrolled first-year UW-Madison students were recipients of Bucky’s Tuition Promise. The number of students rises to 923 when including new transfer recipients. A total of 848 students — the equivalent of nine percent fewer students — received the tuition pledge in 2019.
According to UW-Madison Associate Director for Advising & Outreach at the Office of Student Financial Aid Greg Offerman, the pledge also strives to let “students know that UW-Madison is accessible, as well. So they [students and families] know what that benefit is going to be; they can count on it year after year when they apply for admission and enroll at UW-Madison.”
The Office of Student Financial Aid has targeted its promotion of Bucky’s Tuition Promise to college counselors, students and families alike. Offerman explains that one “incentive” of the program is for all students to complete their FAFSA applications and understand the results’ effects on applicants.
The money used to fund Bucky’s Tuition Promise comes from private donations and institutional resources, rather than tax money. According to Offerman, private donors and foundations are kept confidential.
In an Oct. 21 news release announcing the new class, UW-Madison student life writer Doug Erickson reiterates the increasing prevalence of Bucky’s Tuition Promise on campus and shared comment from five recipients of the scholarship.
One of those students, first-year Emily Kollman from Oakfield, Wis., tells Erickson that she is able to use savings from babysitting gigs and garage sale or thrift store purchase resales toward books. Kollman’s aspiration of becoming a doctor and giving back to many individuals has turned into a greater reality.
Jayla Nimo of Milwaukee also shared her appreciation for this educational opportunity and its relief for financial pressures.
“My mom raised me all by herself as a single mother,” Nimo says in the news release. “She has been putting me through private education ever since I was young so that she can give me the best-valued education. It feels amazing that for the next few years, she doesn’t have to worry. And it means a lot to me that I can focus on being independent, and now so can she.”
When asked how students who aren’t eligible for Bucky’s Tuition Promise receive financial assistance amid the pandemic, Offerman noted that “when it comes to the limited financial aid resources we have at UW-Madison, we focus our efforts primarily on our Wisconsin students first. Being the public flagship institution for the state of Wisconsin, it’s important that we do that.”
Offerman admits that, with out-of-state tuition being of higher cost, the university has less of an impact on financial assistance. There is no equivalent to Bucky’s Tuition Promise for out-of-state students; however, other programs for need-based aid are available depending on applicants’ or students’ FAFSA results.