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University of Wisconsin-Madison offers free tuition to financially strapped freshmen

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison expects about 800 students per freshman class will qualify for free tuition.
  • Tuition and fees are about $11,000.
  • The average tuition at a four-year public university is $9,970, according to the College Board. At private colleges, the average is more than three times that: $34,740.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has joined the growing list of colleges that now offer free tuition to certain students.

Called "Bucky's Tuition Promise," the program will cover four years of tuition and fees for in-state students whose family's annual household adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less.

"We are saying to these Wisconsin families, in the clearest and most concise way possible, that if your student applies here and is accepted, we will cover the cost of tuition and fees — plain and simple," said Derek Kindle, director of the UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid, in a statement.

College Students in a group
John Fedele | Getty Images

Tuition and fees at the university for one year are about $11,000.

The new program is similar to others cropping up at colleges around the country, as student grapple with the rising costs of earning a degree.

The average tuition for one year at a public college is $9,970, according to the College Board. At private colleges, the average is a whopping $34,740. Room and board can add another $10,000 or more to that annual cost.

Eligibility for the University of Wisconsin-Madison free-tuition program begins with incoming freshman this fall, the school's announcement said. Beyond the income requirement, there will be no requirements or other qualifying factors.

The award will be automatic to eligible students based on the information provided on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Students would still be eligible for additional financial aid to cover other costs, such as room and board.

The university expects more than 800 students to get free tuition in each incoming class of freshmen. The cost is pegged at about $825,000 per year for each class.

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