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UW promises free college for Wisconsin tribal students, few expected to qualify

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(The Center Square) – Just days after the University of Wisconsin agreed to a deal that some regents said “sold out minority students,” the university is promising a free education for Wisconsin’s native American tribes.

The university said the Wisconsin Tribal Educational Promise will cover the costs for students who are “enrolled members of federally recognized Wisconsin Indian tribes.”

“As a university, we are deeply committed to a future of mutual respect and cooperation with the American Indian tribes in Wisconsin,” UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said. “This program is another tangible, meaningful step in that direction.”

The offer includes tuition and fees, as well as housing, meals, books and other educational expenses for students who are admitted to the university.

There are about 650 students at UW-Madison who belong to an Indiana tribe, though not all of them are members of a Wisconsin tribe, and not all of them are enrolled members of their tribe. Those students would not be eligible under the new program.

It’s also unclear how many students from Wisconsin’s tribes would be able to get into the Universities of Wisconsin.

The ACT reported that in 2019, 559 American Indian graduates from Wisconsin took the ACT and had an average score of 16.8.

That’s compared to 44,567 white graduates from Wisconsin who took the ACT and had an average score of 23.2.

“The creation of this program marks a significant step in the partnership between the American Indian tribes in Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin–Madison,” Shannon Holsey, the president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians and chairwoman of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, said in a statement. “While several other states have programs with similar goals, we are not aware of another effort that goes this far financially to help Native students afford higher education. This program sends a strong message that our students are important to the state’s flagship university.”

Madison’s state Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, cheered the decision.

“It is the right thing to do!” she said on social media.

The Tribal Educational Promise will begin next fall and cover both new students and native students already on campus.

The university says the program will cover four years of expenses for undergrad students. The school says the price tag for that is $115,664. The university says the program will cover two years of tuition for doctorate and masters graduate students. Their books and living expenses will not be covered.

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