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Republican lawmakers pitch guaranteed state university admission for top high school grads

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(The Center Square) – The latest effort to get more Wisconsin kids into the University of Wisconsin would require UW to change admissions procedures for incoming freshmen.

A group of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would guarantee a seat at UW school for any Wisconsin high schooler who graduates in the top 5% of their class.

“With the amount of money that we as taxpayers [pay] for K-12 and University of Wisconsin System, is it too much to say ‘We want that top 5%?’” Rep. Jerry O’Connor, R-Fond du Lac, asked reporters on Wednesday.

O’Connor’s plan would require the UW System to rewrite its admissions formula, and share with schools, parents, and teachers more of what it takes for students to get into UW-Madison.

Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, said getting any answers about UW-Madison’s admissions is a part of the problem.

“As chairman of the Colleges and Universities Committee, my office asked for UW-Madison’s admissions policy. We got a more than 50-page document that is about 90% redacted,” Murphy added.

The UW has said it shares the lawmakers’ goal of keeping Wisconsin’s “best and brightest” in the state, and at a UW school. But the university didn’t specifically comment on the requirement that the Republicans are pursuing.

O’Connor said he hasn’t spoken to the university about the requirement, but did say “this issue has been brought-up to the university previously, and they’ve made no changes.”

There are fewer than 70,000 high school graduates in Wisconsin each year. Five percent of that comes to about 3,500 kids. UW-Madison accepts about 3,600 Wisconsin students each year.

“So the idea that we are going to push somebody else out, I don’t buy that,” Murphy said.

UW-Madison’s freshman class was 8,628 students back in September of last year. The UW’s own numbers show that about 45% of that class is from Wisconsin, the rest are from other states or other countries.

O’Conno said those lopsided numbers leave Wisconsin kids left out.

“[There] seems to be an institutionalized brain drain, sending some of our best people to other states,” O’Connor said. “And guess what happens when they graduate from the University of Minnesota, or Iowa, or Indiana? They make that their home. They don’t come back.”

Any changes to UW admissions will come later, however. Lawmakers in Madison are due to wrap up their session for this year by the end of the week.

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