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In Wisconsin, 64% of undergraduates leave school with student loan debt, with an average balance of $31,705 for attending a four-year or above college – higher than the national average. However, there are a number of state-specific scholarships, grants and Wisconsin student loans available that can make your education more affordable.
If you’re planning on attending one of the state’s 39 four-year public or private universities or colleges, here’s what you should know about your financing options special to Wisconsin, as well as loans available nationally, and a look at tuition rates in the state.
Wisconsin student loans, scholarships, grants and more
If you’re a resident of Wisconsin, you may be eligible for loans, scholarships, or grants offered by the state. Administered by the Higher Educational Aids Board, state financial assistance may be available to students who meet the following criteria:
- You are a resident of Wisconsin.
- You have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
- You’re enrolled in an undergraduate degree or certificate program.
- You’re attending a nonprofit university or college in Wisconsin.
- Male students are registered with the United States Selective Service System (SSS).
- If applying for need-based aid, you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Students who are not registered with the U.S. Selective Service System or who are listed on the Department of Workforce Development’s statewide Child Support Lien Docket – unless you have an approved payment plan – are not eligible for state aid.
The State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board administers the following programs:
Academic Excellence Scholarship
High school seniors who have the highest grade point average (GPA) in each public and private high school in the state qualify for the Academic Excellence Scholarship. To qualify for the scholarship, the student must be enrolled on a full-time basis by Sept. 30 after graduating high school at a participating University of Wisconsin location, Wisconsin Technical College, or independent institution in the state. The scholarship is valued at $2,250 per year, and students can receive it for up to eight semesters.
Only the following schools qualify as eligible institutions for the Academic Excellence Scholarship.
|Technical Colleges||University of Wisconsin Locations||Independent Colleges||Tribal Colleges|
● Moraine Park
● Southwest WI
● Chippewa Valley
● Madison Area
● Nicolet Area
● Waukesha County
● Fox Valley
● Milwaukee Area
● Northeast WI
● Green Bay/Sheboygan/Manitowoc/Marinette
● Eau Claire/Barron Co.
● La Crosse
● Oshkosh/Fox Valley/Fondu Lac
● Sauk Co./Richland
● River Falls
● Steven’s Point/Marathon Co./Marshfield/
● Wood Co.
● Whitewater/Rock Co.
● Bellin College of Nursing
● Cardinal Stritch
● Holy Family
● Maranatha Baptist
● Milwaukee Institute of Art
● Milwaukee School of Engineering
● Mount Mary
● Northland College
● Northland Internat’l
● St. Norbert
● Wisconsin Lutheran
|● Lac Courte Oreilles
● Menominee Nation
Hearing/Visually Impaired Student Grant
Undergraduate students with severe hearing or visual impairments and financial need may qualify for up to $1,800 through the Hearing/Visually Impaired Student Grant. To qualify, students must be enrolled at least half-time at an in-state school or eligible out-of-state institution, and attach a copy of your current audiogram or eye report results to your application.
Students can receive the grants for up to ten semesters.
Indian Student Assistance Grant
Wisconsin residents who are at least 25% Native American and are undergraduate or graduate students at qualifying Wisconsin institutions can receive up to $1,100 through the Indian Student Assistance Grant for up to ten semesters.
Students can attend programs at the University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Technical College, independent colleges and universities, tribal colleges, or proprietary institutions based within the state. Awards are based on financial need.
Minnesota-Wisconsin Tuition Reciprocity
Under the Minnesota-Wisconsin Tuition Reciprocity program, Wisconsin residents who choose to enroll in eligible Minnesota public schools can pay in-state tuition rates, rather than the out-of-state rate. Wisconsin students are encouraged to apply online.
Minority Teacher Loan
The Minority Teacher Loan program gives student loans to Wisconsin minority undergraduate students who are sophomores, juniors, or seniors enrolled at least half-time at the University of Wisconsin or a nonprofit, independent college. Students must be enrolled in programs leading to their teaching license in a discipline that has a shortage within the state, and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Students can receive up to $10,000 per year, with an overall maximum of $30,000. Students who participate in this program must commit to teaching full-time in an elementary or secondary school in the city of Milwaukee. For each year that the student meets their commitment, 25% of the loan is forgiven. Otherwise, the loan must be repaid with a 5% interest rate.
For the purposes of the Minority Teacher Loan program, a minority student is defined as a student who is African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Island origin, or two or more races.
Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant
Minority undergraduate students who are sophomores, juniors and seniors with financial need can qualify for up to $2,500 in financial assistance through the Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant. Students must be enrolled at least half-time in independent, tribal, or Wisconsin Technical College institutions, and they can receive the grant for up to eight semesters.
For the purposes of the Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant, a minority student is defined as a student who is African American, American Indian, Hispanic, or Southeast Asian from Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam admitted to the U. S. after Dec. 31, 1975.
Nursing Student Loan
Wisconsin resident undergraduate or graduate students studying to become registered nurses or licensed practical nurses can receive up to $3,000 per year in student loans through the Nursing Student Loan program. In exchange, the student must agree to work as a licensed nurse in Wisconsin. For each of the two years that you work within the state, 25% of your loans will be forgiven.
The program is not a full forgiveness program; the maximum amount of forgiveness you can achieve is 50% of your loan balance. You’ll have to repay the remaining loan balance at 5% interest.
Talent Incentive Program (TIP) Grant
The Talent Incentive Program (TIP) Grant is available to the most financially needy and economically disadvantaged Wisconsin resident students. Incoming freshmen are nominated by financial aid counselors or by Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Programs (WEOP) counselors.
Students can receive $600 to $1,800 with the initial grant, and the grant can be awarded for up to ten semesters.
Teacher Loan Program
Wisconsin resident undergraduate sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled at least half-time at eligible schools may qualify for the Teacher Loan program. If the student is in a program leading to a teaching license in a discipline with a shortage in the state and has a GPA of 3.0 or higher, the student could receive up to $10,000 in student loans per year, with an overall maximum of $30,000.
In return, students commit to work full-time as teachers in the city of Milwaukee or in a county designated as “rural” by program statutes. For each year the student meets these requirements, 25% of their loan balance is forgiven. If they do not meet the forgiveness criteria, the loan must be repaid at 5% interest.
Teacher of the Visually Impaired Loan
Wisconsin resident undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in programs that will lead to them being licensed to teach the visually impaired or as orientation and mobility instructors are eligible for the Teacher of the Visually Impaired Loan program. Through this program, students can receive up to $10,000 per year in student loans, up to a maximum of $40,000.
In exchange, the student must agree to serve as a licensed teacher or mobility instructor in a Wisconsin school district, Wisconsin Center for the Legally Blind and Visually Impaired, or a cooperative educational service agency. For each of the first two years that they work, 25% of their loans are forgiven. If they work for a third year in an eligible role, 50% of their loans are forgiven.
If the student doesn’t work in a qualifying role, they must repay the loans at 5% interest.
Technical Excellence Scholarship (TES)
High school seniors who demonstrate high levels of proficiency in technical education subjects can qualify for the Technical Excellence Scholarship (TES). Eligible students can receive up to $2,250 per year to attend a Wisconsin Technical College. They can receive the scholarship for up to six semesters.
The following schools qualify for the scholarship.
|● Blackhawk Technical College
● Chippewa Valley Technical College
● Fox Valley Technical College
● Gateway Technical College
● Lakeshore Technical College
● Madison Area Technical College
|● Mid-State Technical College
● Milwaukee Area Technical College
● Moraine Park Technical College
● Nicolet Area Technical College
● Northcentral Technical College
● Northeast WI Technical College
|● Southwest WI Technical College
● Waukesha County Technical College
● Western Technical CollegeGateway Technical College
● WI Indianhead Technical College
The tuition capitation program provides tuition subsidies for a limited number of Wisconsin residents at graduate-level professional schools.
The Contract for Dental Education allows 160 Wisconsin residents to attend the Marquette University of Dentistry at the resident tuition rate. Qualifying students will save over $8,500 per year through the program.
Medical College of Wisconsin Capitation
A limited number of Wisconsin residents can enroll full-time in the Doctor of Medicine program at the Medical College of Wisconsin and receive tuition assistance.
Wisconsin Grant Program-UW System, Wisconsin Technical Colleges, Tribal Colleges
Undergraduate students who are Wisconsin residents with financial need may be eligible for the Wisconsin Grant Program. Students who are enrolled within the University of Wisconsin system, Wisconsin Technical Colleges, or tribal colleges can receive up to $3,150 in financial assistance for up to ten semesters.
Wisconsin Grant Private Nonprofit Program
Undergraduate Wisconsin residents with financial need enrolled at least half-time at nonprofit universities based in Wisconsin may qualify for the Wisconsin Grant Private Nonprofit Program. Maximum awards are determined annually, and students can receive the grants for up to ten semesters.
Federal and private student loans in Wisconsin
While there are several grants and scholarships you may qualify for, they may not be enough to cover the total cost of attendance. If that’s the case, you may need to borrow money to pay for school.
If you need to take out student loans, make sure you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and use up all available federal student loans first. Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and more favorable repayment terms than private loans. However, there are caps on how much you can borrow from the U.S. Department of Education each year, so you may need to apply for private student loans to cover the rest of your expenses.
Banks, credit unions and financial institutions issue private student loans. Unlike federal loans, which usually don’t require a credit check, private lenders have minimum credit score and income requirements.
Wisconsin student loans are available. For example, you can borrow up to $15,000 per year with UW Credit Union, and have up to 15 years to repay your loans. The lender offers both variable and fixed-rate loans, and you can apply for a loan with a cosigner to improve your chances of qualifying for a loan.
In-state vs. out-of-state tuition in Wisconsin
The cost of tuition can vary widely by institution. While in-state tuition is typically less expensive, that’s not always the case. The actual rates depend on the type of university and whether or not the school has a reciprocity agreement.
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Public)
- Tuition and fees (in-state): $10,746
- Tuition and fees (out-of-state): $38,634
- Tuition and fees (Minnesota reciprocity): $15,058
Marquette University (Private)
- Tuition and fees (All freshman): $44,970
Edgewood College (Private)
- Tuition and fees (All freshman): $31,700
Depending on where you go to school, you may qualify for institution-specific grants or scholarships that will reduce your education costs. For example, Edgewood College offers a tuition grant for students who have a 3.5 GPA or higher and ACT scores of 24 or better. If you qualify, your tuition cost could be reduced from $31,700 per year to just $11,400 per year. Check with the university you’re interested in attending for details about your financial aid options.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.