Great People Scholarship

Donate to the Great People Scholarship

When you donate to the Great People Scholarship, you are supporting one of the university's highest priorities.

Gifts to this fund may qualify you for the 1848 Society and entitle you to special benefits.

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The Great People Scholarship program supports scholars who would otherwise be unable to attend the university due to financial obstacles. This need-based aid program began in 2008 through a $20 million match commitment by the UW Foundation’s board, in conjunction with the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. Initially, an individual scholarship fund required a minimum $25,000 donor commitment, which was combined with a dollar-for-dollar match for need-based funds or a 1:2 match for need-based funds within the specific unit.

Although the matching component of this scholarship was completed in November 2015, need-based aid remains a top priority for the university and the All Ways Forward campaign. Donating to the Great People Annual Fund and other existing Great People funds continues to be the best way to directly support these scholars. The endowments created through this initiative will continue in perpetuity to support future Badger students.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we want to attract the best and brightest undergraduates from economically diverse backgrounds to energize the campus and reaffirm its mission: to help all of our students prepare to live and lead in the real world. As state support for the university has diminished and costs have risen, however, the price of a top-quality UW-Madison education is out of reach for many promising students from middle- and low-income Wisconsin families and many promising out-of-state residents, even with one of the lowest tuition rates among the nation’s top 10 public universities. The cost for an in-state student to attend UW-Madison during the 2016–17 year is around $25,294, including room and board. The average amount of student debt at UW-Madison is $28,768, and 32.3 percent of full-time freshmen received financial aid last year.

The Great People Scholarship program provides need-based aid through the Office of Student Financial Aid. The objective of financial aid is to ensure that admitted students are able to become attending students. A financial-aid package typically comprises a combination of funding sources, which can include federal or state grants, a work-study job, student loans, a family contribution, and/or privately funded scholarships. As the Office of Financial Aid prepares an individualized aid package for each student, Great People Scholarships help to bridge the unmet need gap after all other available sources have been applied.

So far this program has raised more than $44 million in scholarships for students in need. In 2015, 575 students received aid through the scholarship and 41 percent of last year’s Great People Scholarship recipients were first-generation college students. Since its launch, the program has provided more than 1,900 students with crucial financial assistance.