Discussion Heats Up Over Financial Aid

Wisconsin lawmakers generally agree that technical college students can use more financial aid. But some wonder if the state can afford a nearly 100-percent increase sought by the board of Wisconsin’s 16 tech schools. The Board has asked for an additional 34-million dollars in Higher Education Grants for job-based training in next year’s two-year state budget. That’s on top of the nearly 38-million dollars funded in the current budget. Oshkosh Democrat Jessica King, who chairs the Senate’s Job Training panel, says more people are beginning to realize there’s a gap between what employers need and the numbers of workers trained to meet those needs. King said the tech schools need to be a priority in the next budget. But a spokesman for G-O-P Assembly Colleges Committee chair Steve Nass (nahss) of Whitewater says the money might not be available. Mike Mikalsen says schools should focus on specific local job demands, instead of just funneling more students to the classroom. Last year, Governor Scott Walker rejected an extra 23-million dollars in financial aid for tech colleges. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie says the new request will be considered as part of an overall review of next year’s available funding and needs. For now, he said the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation has created grant money that’s tied to specific jobs. The foundation recently gave almost four-million dollars to five technical colleges.