Ninth grade students throughout the state are aiming for a bright future by making a pledge that will secure them a higher education and financial aid through the Wisconsin Covenant program.

The Wisconsin Covenant asks students in eighth grade or the beginning of ninth grade to sign a pledge committing them to achieve a list of several academic goals and to take active roles in their communities.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle proposed the program, which is currently in its second year.

The program delineates strict requirements, which include maintaining a B average until graduation and applying for admission to a University of Wisconsin System institution, a technical school or a private school in Wisconsin.

Linda Barth, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said she has received positive feedback regarding the program and its mission.

"[T]he goal is to have these kids, the first day of high school, know they have a plan of continuing their education," Barth said.

Spokesperson for Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, Mike Prentiss, said the program is misleading to both parents and students, because students who do sign the pledge are still held to the same college admissions and financial aid standards.

"[The Covenant] is nothing more than a slogan on a piece of paper; students aren't guaranteed to receive financial aid," Prentiss said. "Doyle is selling an idea, not a program."

Carla Vigue, spokesperson for Doyle, said all students, whether they pledge to the Wisconsin Covenant or not, are required to meet federal standards to qualify for financial aid.

The program, Vigue said, does not automatically give its students additional financial or admission benefits, but assists them in earning benefits for themselves by committing to the pledge.

"The governor started it to help kids in having a clear road map of what it takes to get to college," Vigue said.

Covenant Day, Vigue added, occurred last spring and aimed to give students a positive experience on a college campus.

"Kids across the state went to all types of colleges," Vigue said. "Eighth graders could tour campuses and talk to teachers and hear what they need to do for college."

However, there is some debate over the cost of the Wisconsin Covenant. Prentiss said Doyle has yet to give hard facts and numbers regarding funding for the program.

According to Vigue, education is among Doyle's top priorities, adding he strongly supports the Covenant.

"[T]here doesn't need to be additional funding," Vigue said. "Doyle already set aside 44 million dollars for financial aid."

Doyle has set a goal of 10,000 students to register for the program by Friday, Sept. 14.