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UW-Madison seeks new target in how many in-state freshmen it must enroll
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UW-Madison seeks new target in how many in-state freshmen it must enroll


UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank wants to revise an undergraduate admissions policy requiring the university to admit at least 3,600 Wisconsin residents in each freshman class, calling it “not a good indicator of our commitment to in-state students.”

She will ask the UW Board of Regents at this week’s meeting to approve a requirement for UW-Madison to enroll a minimum of 5,200 new in-state undergraduates each year. That target — based on a three-year rolling average — would include Wisconsin freshmen and transfer students, along with those from Minnesota attending UW-Madison through a state reciprocity agreement.

This year’s incoming freshman class included 3,797 Wisconsin residents, the fourth-largest number of in-state students in the last 30 years. But the class also carries the distinction of having the smallest percentage of Wisconsin freshmen, 50.3% of the class, in that same time period due to increased enrollment from outside the state.

UW-Madison has enrolled more out-of-state students in recent years, in part, to offset a Republican-imposed resident undergraduate tuition freeze that began in 2013 and entered its seventh year this fall.

Since 2015, UW-Madison has added an average of 250 out-of-state students in each class, a group that pays a tuition rate more than three times greater than Wisconsin students. The university has put some of that money toward Bucky’s Tuition Promise, a full-tuition, income-based scholarship program that about 20% of Wisconsin freshmen qualified for this year.

But meeting the 3,600 threshold has been “challenging,” according to a letter Blank wrote to the Regents. It also creates complications for other University of Wisconsin System campuses that face a declining pool of resident high school graduates to recruit, Blank said. In 2010, 4.9% of Wisconsin high school graduates went on to attend the state’s flagship university. This year, an estimated 5.8% came to UW-Madison.

“As Madison takes a greater share of (Wisconsin) high school graduates, pressures on the other campuses in the System only increase,” Blank said in the letter outlining her proposal.

The 3,600 minimum requirement does not account for transfer students and those who start in the spring instead of fall. It also ignores Minnesota students who pay a tuition rate closer to what Wisconsin students pay than out-of-state students under a reciprocity agreement.

If the two states did not have reciprocity, UW-Madison argues it would enroll more Wisconsin students and fewer Minnesota students. So the Minnesota students essentially replace Wisconsin students choosing to attend school in Minnesota and should be counted as in-state, like they were under the previous policy, Blank said.

UW-Madison data show the university met the proposed 5,200 target in each of the last four years. The proposal would give the university more leeway because it is not an absolute number UW-Madison must meet each year like the 3,600 requirement and is instead based on a three-year rolling average of all undergraduate enrollment.

Language in the proposal also notes that the Regents “expect” UW-Madison to continue enrolling at least 3,600 Wisconsin freshmen, according to a motion the board’s Education Committee will consider Thursday.

Blank also requested no end date to her proposal.

“Of course, the Board has the right to revisit it at any time, but we need a stable planning horizon,” she said in describing why an expiration date limits the university’s flexibility. “This will facilitate long-term enrollment planning.”


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