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Fueling our economy with the University of Wisconsin

Madison, Wis. - For the first time in the team's history, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team recently was ranked first in the nation, giving Wisconsin fans just one more reason to be proud. March Madness is just around the corner, and I know the team will enjoy tremendous support from everyone in our state.

But our support for the entire University of Wisconsin System shouldn't begin or end with the NCAA tournament. The UW system is a vital institution, critical not only to the success of our citizens but of our entire state.

Earlier this month, I introduced my budget proposal for the next two years. It is balanced, cuts government waste, lowers the tax burden on middle class families, and makes important investments in Wisconsin's priorities. One of those priorities is the University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Covenant

As a first step, my budget launches the Wisconsin Covenant - a vital promise to every eighth grade student that if they work hard, make the grade, and be a good citizen, we'll do our part by guaranteeing them a spot in the UW System, the Technical College System, or a private college, along with a financial package that meets their family's needs.
To prepare for the day when the first Covenant Scholars walk through the doors of our UW schools, I am proposing a major increase in financial aid. In fact, we are on pace to triple financial aid since the day I took office.

That's not all we're doing to make college more affordable for the middle class. We are working with the Board of Regents to hold tuition down - to about four percent - and every student on financial aid will see an increase in their scholarship that will match the tuition increase, dollar for dollar.

I know the cost of college is a big concern for so many families. But everyone should also know that the University of Wisconsin remains the best value anywhere in higher education.

In fact, under this budget, in-state tuition will be $3,000 less than at the University of Minnesota, $3,400 less than the University of Michigan, $3,600 less than the University of Illinois, $2,300 less than Ohio State, and $6,000 less than Penn State. We're always at the top in football and basketball, but when it comes to tuition, we will be the second lowest of any Big Ten school.

I'm also fighting to expand Wisconsin's tuition tax deduction to $6,000 per student, and to allow our students and their families to deduct fees as well as tuition. It will be the second expansion of this deduction in the last four years.

Next-generation workers

I also believe we need a new partnership between our state and the university system to educate and train the next generation of workers for Wisconsin's economy. My budget includes a significant investment in the university system to increase the number of graduates, particularly in high-tech fields that our economy will need - like more engineers, scientists, and nurses.

This will be a major undertaking for the university and for the state, but the benefits will be wide and far-reaching.

We will expand enrollment from UW-Green Bay to UW-La Crosse to UW-Oshkosh, UW-Superior, and UW-River Falls, making the dream of college a reality for thousands more of our citizens.

From UW-Parkside to UW-Whitewater, and across the UW system, we will expand financial aid, recruit more minority students, and provide additional academic help to those who need it.

We will create a new health sciences major at UW-Stevens Point, new opportunities for technical college students at UW-Oshkosh, improve services for adult students at UW-Green Bay, strengthen student retention efforts at River Falls, and expand the liberal arts programs available at Superior.

In partnership with the UW-Platteville, we'll expand opportunities at UW colleges as well, like a new mechanical engineering degree at UW-Fox Valley, an electrical engineering degree at UW-Rock County, and opportunities for hundreds more students throughout the state.

Economic investment

It's not only an investment in our students. It's an investment in our economy. We'll train more nurses and teachers in Oshkosh, more engineers in Platteville, and more biologists in Green Bay.

We'll fund an innovative partnership between UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, and the Chippewa Valley Technical College to produce more graduates in advanced disciplines like nanotechnology, biotechnology, and polymer engineering.

Early next year, we'll break ground on the Institutes for Discovery - without any ideological strings attached. Together, we'll launch a new and exciting era in which the UW-Madison will not only help create thousands of new jobs, but will help unlock cures to deadly diseases through biotechnology and stem cell research.

And at UW-Milwaukee, we'll make a major new investment in research. We'll recruit top experts from around the country, and build partnerships with the Medical College of Wisconsin and leading healthcare corporations that will strengthen the regional economy. It will cement our status as one of America's leaders in scientific and medical research.

An investment in higher education is an investment in Wisconsin's future. It's an investment in opportunity. And it's an investment whose time has come.

Previous columns by Jim Doyle

Gov. Jim Doyle: Stem cell research holds the promise for tomorrow

Gov. Jim Doyle: Wisconsin can lead the way to energy independence

Gov. Jim Doyle: Cracking down on identity theft

Tom Still: Animal testing: Beyond the protests, instances of mistreatment are rare

Jim Doyle, a UW-Madison graduate, has been the Governor of Wisconsin since January of 2003. Before running for Governor, he served for 12 years as Wisconsin's Attorney General.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.

WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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