Madison: Very few students can afford to attend college without some form of financial aid. And for students without a lot of family support, financial aid is a must.
Higher Education Aid Board Executive Secretary Connie Hutchison says the Wisconsin Higher Education Grants are big part of that aid. "We know there are a lot of needy students out there who are depending on this to get to college."
Governor Doyle's budget proposal increased the money for WHEG grants to $40.5 million. The Republican controlled Joint Finance Committee scaled the grants back to $37 million.
"We have to pull back a little bit from his increases," says Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah), Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee.
"I urge them to reverse the cut to financial aid," responded Gov. Doyle.
The problem is, 18,000 WHEG grants for next year have already been calculated and announced at the Governor's funding level. So those students will be getting a notice after the budget is finalized, telling them their grant amount is going down.
"All the students will see some kind of a decrease. How much, we don't know until our board decides what the formula is," says Hutchison.
Rep. Kaufert says tuition will go up between five and seven percent the next two years so they didn't feel the need to raise financial aid higher than that. "We set financial aid at six percent so they kind of matched."
But Hutchison says the lower number could leave some of the kids who haven't applied yet out in the cold. "The later you apply the less your chance of qualifying for an award this year, because funds will have been expended."
"There's no doubt it will limit access," agreed Gov. Doyle. "The cut of money in financial aid is just one of these thoughtless, almost sort of cruel cuts, you kinda wonder what they're sitting there thinking about."