UPDATE: State agency calls for increase in student financial aid - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: State agency calls for increase in student financial aid

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MADISON (WKOW) -- More college students than ever are looking for financial aid, so the agency that manages Wisconsin's financial aid system is asking for more funding in the next state budget.

As more students are asking for help to pay for their education, the state funding pool gets tighter. That dilemma led to the creation of a commission to study how to make the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) more efficient and cater to students' needs.

Last year, the agency paid out $118 million in financial aid, but that only covered half the student requests. Now in its report, HEAB is asking for about $40 million more in the upcoming state budget.

"I do think the report makes the case that there is an unmet need here that we should consider doing something with," says John Reinemann, executive secretary of HEAB. "Higher education is an investment."

Turning down financial aid applications is difficult for UW System officials, who say of the 181,000 students in the UW System, about two-thirds receive financial aid, but even more apply for it and never get anything.

"We routinely have to say 'yes, you can come to school, but we've run out of scholarship money'," says communications director for UW Systems, David Giroux. "That's discouraging for the student, it's discouraging for us."

The report found that 76,000 students applied for but didn't receive funding throughout the state. That number includes other college systems, like Wisconsin's Technical Colleges System (WTCS), where a boost in financial aid could educate more people of all ages.

Morna Foy, spokesperson for WTCS, says she hopes someday financial aid could extend to people who are less than half-time students, to reach a wider population of people who are educated in technical colleges.

Statewide, more financial aid funding would mean more people complete their degrees when they otherwise might not be able to enter the workforce.

"They stay here in Wisconsin in large numbers, they put that college degree to good use in their jobs and they end up contributing back to the community and back to the state," says Giroux.

The HEAB report is now in the hands of Governor Scott Walker. He will ultimately decide what investment the state will make in the future of the financial aid system. The governor is expected to begin making budget decisions soon, and details should be released in early spring. But of course he'll have a challenge, as many state agencies are expected to ask for more money.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), and other college groups are endorsing a commission finding that calls for increased college aid in the next state budget.

The state's Higher Educational Aids Board released a report this week finding that financial-aid resources are insufficient.

The commission says more than 76,000 college students who were eligible for financial aid last year didn't receive need-based grants because state funding ran out.

The commission's recommendations include changing the law to increase the amount available for certain financial aid by the same percentage that tuition increases.

Tonight on 27 News at 5 & 6, Jennifer Kliese will share more about the report, and reaction from UW System and WTCS.

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