Republicans propose new $5,000 scholarships for UW schools

MADISON — New $5,000 scholarships for students who attend University of Wisconsin System schools would be created under a Republican proposal unveiled Tuesday.

The bill, which has the backing of UW System President Ray Cross, aims to create the largest scholarship program in Wisconsin history with $5 million available by the time it's fully implemented in eight years.

Money to pay for the scholarships would come from the sale of land given to the state by the federal government at the time of statehood. The land, mostly located in northern Wisconsin and estimated to be worth about $80 million, would have to be sold to the state Department of Natural Resources under the stewardship program. The property is currently controlled by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

The board has already sold 98 percent of similar land and uses proceeds from those sales to give money to benefit K-12 public schools and the UW System.

Once fully implemented, bill backers project there would be enough money to offer about 1,000 scholarships every year. The only other state-funded merit-based scholarship provides $2,170 to the top graduate in each Wisconsin high school, the bill's sponsors said.

The scholarships would be available only to Wisconsin residents who attend UW System schools. The UW Board of Regents would determine eligibility for the scholarships based on university admission test scores and high school GPA.

The proposal is supported by UW President Ray Cross.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Tyler August, of Lake Geneva, and Sen. Steve Nass, of Whitewater, and has the support of UW President Ray Cross and state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk.

Adamczyk is among three members of the board that holds the property that would be sold. All three of them are Republicans.

The proposal needs to pass the Senate and Assembly before Gov. Scott Walker can sign it into law.