Sen. Miller\’s committee voted to keep an increase in tech school funding.[/media-credit]

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance voted to keep an increase in funding for the state’s technical colleges in the budget proposal and made changes to the University of Wisconsin System’s financial aid packages at their hearing Wednesday.

As a result of changes to the system’s financial aid packages, families earning less than $60,000 per year will not face tuition increases.

Committee members Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-GreenBay, and Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, criticized Democrats for not extending the benefit to students of private colleges as well.

Vos introduced a motion to provide the same protections to private college students during the 2011-13 biennium, but the motion was defeated along party lines.

Additionally, the committee voted to increase general purpose revenue funding for the Wisconsin higher education grant program by $6.7 milllion in 2009-10 and then reduce it by $13.1 million in 2010-11, The program provides need-based grants to state residents enrolled as an undergraduate at least half-time at a UW System institution.

The committee also increased the maximum Wisconsin higher education grant award from $3,000 to $3,150.

Overall, however, the committee reduced state funding over the next two years for universities by $6 million, although committee Democrats argued the increase in financial aid and Pell Grants included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will actually increase financial aid for students in the state.

“We’re taking advantage of the significant increase in Pell Grants that are going to be available,” said committee Co-Chair Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona. “(We will) assure our future by continuing to provide financial aid to the students in Wisconsin.”

Vos criticized committee Democrats for the move, arguing the financial aid package does not go far enough since “families who qualify for BadgerCare would not get financial aid.”

The committee also voted to increase technical college district funding by $2.6 million.

Although all committee members were in favor of increasing funding for technical colleges as a way to help improve the state’s economic climate, Republicans argued the funds were not enough.

The Joint Committee on Finance will meet again today to continue to discuss Gov. Jim Doyle’s 2009-11 budget proposal.