Students rally for increase in financial aid

· Oct 3, 2001 Tweet

Students from across the state met at Memorial Union yesterday to discuss the Affordable Tuition Bill, which will increase financial aid grants to match tuition increases. The bill, sponsored by Minority Leader Spencer Black, D-Madison, was introduced in March to the Assembly.

Tuition increases have become an important issue on campus, in light of the recent increases in tuition in the Governor’s budget and the economic downturn after the attacks in New York. The bill would allow an increase in state funds to the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant and Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant.

“In the current budget, tuition increases for UW-Madison and Milwaukee students goes up twice as fast as financial aid,” Black said. “That is why ensuring that the University of Wisconsin remains affordable to all Wisconsin citizens is more important than ever.”

Several student groups also spoke at the event, including Jacqueline Helmrick, a legislative intern for ASM.

“For every one hundred dollar increase in tuition, there is a 2.2 percent decrease for low-income families,” she said.

The personal debt of students has also gone up to $14,000 over the course of their undergraduate education.

Leaders from across the state urged students to call and e-mail their representatives to support the bill. The bill has been bogged down in committee since the spring, and the Democratic leadership feels that the time is right for a full vote in the Assembly. The bill already passed in the Senate, and with Assembly approval will go to the governor to become law.

Black thinks there should be bi-partisan support for the bill, but he fears that the Republican leadership will allow a full vote. With Republicans in control of the chamber 55-43, seven GOP members are needed to pass the legislation. “If the Republicans use discipline to keep their members in line, the legislation may be difficult to pass,” Black said.

Representative Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, also pointed out that the Assembly will pay attention to students because of their voice at the polls.

“UW-Milwaukee students had the highest turnout of any group in Milwaukee. That form of student activism will be remembered come election time.”

The tuition increases over the past year have brought in-state tuition to $3,290. Students leaving school after four years of college have over 70 percent of their costs covered by loans, with only 30 percent covered by grants and financial aid. The discrepancy worries some students, including Ben Brost, a student from UW-Marathon County. He said it was difficult to receive anything other than loans.

“My parents make too much money, where I am not eligible to receive grant money, nor federal financial aid. The only thing I can get are Stafford Loans.”

Since his loans could not cover tuition, Brost said that he must work to cover other expenses.

With the legislature meeting tomorrow to decide the fate of the bill, Rep. Black promised not to give up.

“No one should be denied a higher education because of his or her family’s financial situation.”

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This article was published Oct 3, 2001 at 8:15 pm and last updated Oct 3, 2001 at 8:15 pm

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