Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

March 8, 2024


Guaranteed Admission to the University of Wisconsin

One of the legislature’s main initiatives in the “deal” struck with the Board of Regents this year was to ensure that the top students in Wisconsin are guaranteed admission to the University of Wisconsin System. On February 20, 2024, the Governor signed Act 95 into law, which makes this a reality.
What does this mean?
Current high school juniors, the high school class of 2025, will be the first class to benefit from guaranteed admission to the University of Wisconsin System.  The top 5% of every graduating class will receive guaranteed admission to UW Madison.  The top 10% of every graduating class will receive guaranteed admission to any UW school, statewide.  In accordance with the legislation as amended and signed into law, the ranking must be based on grade point average (GPA).
Students will still need to apply for admission, but if they fall into these groups, they will automatically be accepted for admission to the school/s of their choice. This is great news!
The University system has announced formal plans for “The Wisconsin Guarantee” and launched a website to provide more information on this program: https://www.wisconsin.edu/wisconsin-guarantee/ If you, or someone you know, has a child who will be graduating in 2025 or after, this information will be very helpful.
The legislature’s goal in this effort is to keep our best and brightest students in Wisconsin. We want our kids to take advantage of the extraordinary higher education we have in our state if they want to pursue a university education. We believe that our public university system should prioritize Wisconsin students rather than serving out-of-state or international students ahead of our own kids.
The authors of the legislation, and several of my colleagues and I, have heard anecdotal accounts of top tier students being waitlisted and even rejected from our universities while students from other states and nations around the world are accepted. As a result, very talented, intelligent, Wisconsin students are opting to go out-of-state for their university education. And they rarely come back.
Brain drain is a big problem for our workforce. It is the loss of human capital. When our young adults go to university in another state, they are less likely to return to Wisconsin to work. 
Studies have shown that Wisconsin has a relatively low out-migration rate. When students stay in Wisconsin for education, they often stay in Wisconsin to work and grow families upon graduation. We have very good educational options in our state, we just need to make sure we keep the students here.
Some high schools have stepped away from ranking students because of the wide array of courses that are available. Balancing and weighting Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment college courses and Honors courses with regular coursework in their GPA calculation has been a challenge.  However, in order to provide a list of the top 5% and top 10% of students, high schools will have to find a way to accomplish this task.
I have reached out to one of our local Cooperative Education Service Agencies (CESA) to ask for their help to assist local school districts with this effort. I am hopeful that the smart people who run our schools will be able to come up with a plan to accommodate the need for ranking to stop the brain drain and to provide opportunities for students in Wisconsin.
Again, workforce development and slowing brain drain have been major goals for the legislature. We are hopeful and optimistic that guaranteed admissions for our best and brightest will be a very positive step in the right direction.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance. Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.