College application fees waived indefinitely at 10 of 13 UW System campuses

Administrators credit policy for boost in applications, freshman enrollment.

UWS aerial view
An aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. Students who apply to UWS and nine other UW System schools will not have to pay application fees, System officials announced recently.
File / Superior Telegram
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MADISON — Application fees at most University of Wisconsin System campuses will be waived indefinitely. The shift started with the pandemic but administrators credit it with boosting the number of applicants and freshman enrollments.

Since December 2020, prospective students interested in enrolling at UW System campuses other than UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Madison have been able to submit free, online applications. The campuses in Eau Claire and La Crosse still charge $25 application fees while UW-Madison charges $60 to apply.

During a Thursday, Feb. 10, meeting of the UW Board of Regents, Interim Vice President for Student Success John Achter told members application fees had been waived for 67,555 undergraduate students. An additional 15,426 students received application fee waivers based on financial need.

"Overall, applications have increased by 25% in the no app fee environment, and freshman enrollment increased by about almost 4% in an environment where nationwide freshman enrollment decreased by around 3%," Achter said. "So, we do believe that this is increasing access for our students and driving enrollment."

UW System data shows the waivers represented more than $2.3 million in potential revenues.


With the policy eliminating application fees set to expire at the end of the year, board members took up and passed a resolution to keep the college application process free at 10 of 13 campuses indefinitely.

Before the vote, former UW Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen summarized the system's approach.

"I think the takeaway or the punch line of the no fee strategy is sometimes you have to spend money or leave money on the table to make money, which is how we're seeing enrollment increases," Petersen said.

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