Next Fall, In-State Students from Low Income Families Will Be Able to Attend UW System Schools for Free

By Christina Lorey
August 19, 2022

The Wisconsin Tuition Promise will waive tuition for households making less than $62,000/year. Legislative Republicans are being asked to fund it beyond its first year.

The University of Wisconsin has prided itself on maintaining a high percentage of in-state students, and soon, the state’s flagship system will help even more Wisconsin families afford its schools.

This week, UW System President Jay Rothman announced the Wisconsin Tuition Promise, a new initiative to ensure underserved Wisconsin students can attend any university in the system tuition-free.

How It Works

Starting in the fall of 2023, Wisconsin Tuition Promise will provide up to four years of free tuition (and other fees) for students who come from families making less than $62,000/year. Modeled after Bucky’s Tuition Promise at UW-Madison, the new program will be available at all 12 public universities within the UW System.

The program will provide “last dollar” financial support, meaning federal and state grant aid will be factored in first. As a result, exact Tuition Promise award amounts will vary.

Rothman estimates 8,000 students will benefit from this program, with the average receiving $4,500 over four years. The UW System will fund the program’s initial price tag of $14 million, with plans to request state investment in the future. That will require a change of heart from legislative Republicans who rejected a similar request from Gov. Tony Evers in the state budget covering 2021-22, according to the Cap Times.

Who’s Eligible

In addition to the $62,000 family income cap, eligible students must be Wisconsin residents, first-time enrollees or transfers, and full-time attendees. They will also need to make “sufficient academic progress” each year and prove they were employed at some point during the previous year.

Why It’s Important

The program’s goal is to increase the number of in-state students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees from University of Wisconsin System schools, especially first-generation students and those from low-to-moderate income families.

Rothman says that, although a recent affordability review showed a UW System education is among the most affordable in the Midwest, fewer low-to-moderate-income and first-generation students are attending Wisconsin universities, suggesting that despite a tuition freeze in place since 2013, a state college education is still out of reach for some.

“A college degree needs to be within reach for every Wisconsin citizen as a path to a better life,” Rothman explained. “The Wisconsin Tuition Promise will provide these opportunities. It is also how we can close the skills gap that now limits Wisconsin’s potential to thrive in a global economy.”

“Education unlocks success in Wisconsin,” he added. “By ensuring that every Wisconsin student is given the full opportunity to get a higher education, we will improve those lives directly while building the economic engine and community prosperity that benefit all Wisconsinites.”

How to Apply

Students will automatically be considered for the Wisconsin Tuition Promise when they apply for federal financial aid. A full publicity campaign led by the state’s universities will start later this fall.
Click here for more information.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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