The University of Wisconsin, Madison has announced that it will start covering the full cost of tuition for undergraduate students who can demonstrate membership in one of the federally-recognized Indian tribes in Wisconsin.
Slated to begin in fall of 2024, the Wisconsin Tribal Educational Promise Program will use private donations to fund the tuition, food, housing, and other costs for undergraduate students with a registered tribal affiliation. Another initiative under the program will cover tuition costs for tribal member students in law and medical schools.
It is particularly noteworthy that these identity-based preferential programs do not set financial standards for eligibility. According to the University of Wisconsin, “the Wisconsin Tribal Educational Promise program is not based on financial need; financial support will be awarded regardless of family income.” Furthermore, the program will also apply to current students at the University of Wisconsin, rather than beginning with the incoming freshman class.
The decision to bestow this special status upon UW Madison’s tribal students based on their identity is particularly striking considering that the school recently bowed to the Republican-controlled state legislature and agreed to put an end to particular diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies.
After initially turning down the deal negotiated with the legislators, the University of Wisconsin’s board of regents changed their minds and voted 11-6 on December 13 to accept the deal in exchange for allowing raises for faculty and staff, as well as additional funding to be released.
In this case at least, UW Madison is not using public funds to support a DEI initiative. However, it should be apparent that just because legislators can stem the flow of funding to DEI does not mean that schools will stop attempting to propagate diversity ideology in other ways.