Financial Aid

Opening the Door to a Private Education with Public Money

Buried in the state budget is a little known provision that opens the door to using state money for private schools.

Under the “voucher program” parents in Milwaukee can send their children to private schools with money from the state. A ‘voucher’ is like a coupon. Parents use state money pay for private school tuition.

The idea was to give residents of poor schools a choice and spur competition – with the hope the public schools would improve. By most measures, this has not happened.

In June the voucher program expanded to Racine. Instead of naming Racine in the new law, the budget authors pulled together four criteria related to property value, cost of educating students, poverty and the size of the city.

Does Financial Aid Help Students Graduate?

“Perhaps we should eliminate financial aid,” my Senate colleague suggested. “And just lower tuition for everyone.”

Recently a Senate Committee considered a bill to look at combining all financial aid programs into one. During the public hearing the Senators grappled with the question: does financial aid help students graduate?

I was a student who would not have graduated or even attended college without financial aid. For me the answer seemed painfully obvious. Dr. Rolf Wegenke seemed to agree.

Dr. Wegenke represents Wisconsin’s Independent Colleges and Universities. He testified at the recent Senate hearing and last year at a similar hearing. He shared research showing “inadequate financial aid is the major factor” stopping low-income students from graduating on-time.  He related, in that last decade, three million academically qualified students could not get a bachelor’s degree because they could not afford tuition.

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