MADISON (WSAU) New figures show that a growing number of students from low-income families are not able to finish their degree programs at Wisconsin’s public universities. The U-W Board of Regents reviewed a report on the subject yesterday from university officials. It found that low-income students and those not eligible for federal Pell grants graduated in smaller rates since 1998. And the gap between those students and the more well-to-do grew by three-percent for whites, and four-percent for minorities.
The U-W has had hefty tuition increases in recent years, while federal Pell grants for low-income students have shrunk a couple times. Also, U-W Madison has the smallest need-based financial aid fund among all 12 schools in the Big Ten Conference.
U-W senior vice president Mark Nook told the Regents that the access gap is due mainly to larger tuition hikes from 2005-through-’07, and the Great Recession which hit afterward – while tuition was still going up five-and-a-half percent a year. Nook told the Regents quote, “We pretty much dared these students to finish” with the large tuition hikes.
The access gap comes at a time when the U-W is trying to increase its number of degree-holders in order to boost the state’s economy.