Vinehout proposes free tuition for tech, two-year colleges

Legislation to make tuition free at Wisconsin’s technical colleges and two-year campuses was unveiled Monday by state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma.

“Expanding our skilled workforce is the surest way to grow our economy and raise wages, which are 18th lowest in the country,” Vinehout, one of several Democratic gubernatorial candidates seeking to unseat GOP Gov. Scott Walker, said in a news release. “Other states that have moved in this direction have seen enrollments increase.”

Vinehout’s proposal would make tuition free for all Wisconsin residents. It would apply to all students, both full time and part time, and would not require enrollment in a degree program.

“What I am proposing today is the broadest free tuition program in the country,” Vinehout said. “I want to eliminate any hesitation anyone might have in pursuing their opportunities and dreams. I want to make it as easy as possible for someone who is already working or has family obligations, doesn’t have the cash and can’t afford to take time off, to get the education and training they want. I call it ‘Freedom to Learn.’ “

The release indicates the program is estimated to cost between $300 million and $350 million. Vinehout proposes to pay for it by repealing the manufacturing tax credit, suggesting that trading a tax break for a pool of skilled workers seems like a good exchange.

Vinehout campaign spokesman Greg Leaf said the candidate is circulating a draft of the bill now and plans to introduce it soon.

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