A bipartisan group of lawmakers has put forth a bill that would give in-state tuition to a member of any tribe nationwide who enrolls at a University of Wisconsin System campus.
Students who qualify must be enrolled with a tribe that’s recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Advocates for the bill say they hope to see more flexibility for tribes to take part that haven’t been recognized by the federal government.
State Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, said in an interview Friday, Sept. 20, that the bill provides opportunities for American Indian students to attend school in Wisconsin and increase diversity on UW campuses.
"A lot of these people have ancestors that lived in Wisconsin who were pushed off the land," he said. "I think it is a way to reconcile the past mistakes that the U.S. government has made."
Tribal members say barriers exist for indigenous students trying to pay for higher education, especially during a time when costs are rising.
"The number of American Indian students attending the UW System has declined by nearly half in the last 10 years, while enrollment of all other minority populations has increased," said Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, in a news release. "I am hopeful this bill will remove a barrier and attract more American Indian students to pursue their studies in Wisconsin."
Milroy said he’s hopeful the bill will pass through the Legislature although he’s uncertain on UW System’s stance on the legislation.
The Associated Press reports aides for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, didn't immediately respond to emails inquiring about the measure's prospects.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news.