Our state has been investing in the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison since it was created as a public state university when the state of Wisconsin was formed in 1848. Over the years, this investment has resulted in a world-class university for Wisconsin citizens that is now an engine of economic growth and a talent pipeline for businesses throughout the state. We take our role as the flagship public campus for Wisconsin very seriously.

An important part of our commitment is to the young adults in this state. We want a significant share of Wisconsin’s top high school students to come and study at UW- Madison, so I want to be clear about how strong our commitment is to the top students in Wisconsin.

We enrolled the largest incoming freshman class in the university’s history this fall and 3,746 of them are Wisconsin residents, up from 3,671 last year. They hail from every corner of the state and will be able to gain a wide variety of experiences both in and out of the classroom as they prepare for a career. In fact, Money Magazine recently ranked UW–Madison career services as among the top five in nation.

We have made a commitment to the Board of Regents that we will have no fewer than 3,600 Wisconsin residents in every freshman class. This is higher than our average number of Wisconsin freshman in the previous 10 years. High school graduates are projected to decline in the state over time, which means we will admit a growing share of Wisconsin’s high school students to UW-Madison.

In this past year, we admitted 72 percent of the Wisconsin students who applied to UW- Madison as freshmen. That’s a very high admission rate to a top-rated and selective school and is far above the admission rate for non-residents, which was 48 percent.

One of my top goals is to make sure every qualified student who we admit can afford to come here, and that means expanding support for low and middle-income students. We are making progress on this front. For instance, through the All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, we have now raised enough money to fund approximately 1,000 new scholarships for undergrad and graduate students.

We’re also putting more of our own institutional dollars into need-based fellowships. Ten years ago, we provided $13 million in need-based grants and scholarships with UW funds. Last year, we provided $58 million.

I’m particularly happy that we have just launched a new program called Badger Promise that guarantees free tuition for first-generation college students who are Wisconsin residents transferring from a two-year UW school or a Wisconsin technical college under our transfer agreements. Every first-generation transfer student who meets the requirements is eligible for two semesters of free tuition, and those who qualify for the Pell grant will receive four semesters of free tuition. First-generation students are particularly likely to start at two-year colleges, in part because they are far more likely to come from lower-income families. Badger Promise allows those who demonstrate their ability to transfer to UW-Madison to come here and complete a degree from the flagship university at a much-reduced cost.

Our Office of Admissions is involved in these efforts. We are doing expanded outreach to Wisconsin high school students with high test scores, who may be considering colleges outside the state. We are developing a high-touch program that communicates the many ways in which UW-Madison provides a first-rate education. If these students stay in-state for college, they are more likely to remain in the state after graduation.

We are also working to deepen our connections with the Wisconsin business community, so they partner with us when seeking summer interns and when hiring employees. But our connections with these businesses goes beyond just a talent pipeline. For instance, we have been a partner with Greenheck Fan in Schofield, Wisconsin. They have been named Wisconsin manufacturer of the year three times, thanks in part to UW-Madison business resources helping refine and improve Greenheck’s processes. You can read more about that partnership here.

These relationships work with companies big and small. With Foxconn’s impending arrival in the state, we look forward to playing a role in both learning about and improving their advanced manufacturing processes, and supplying the trained engineers that will be needed for their workforce.

We owe a lot to the citizens of this state, and I believe that we are serving them effectively, particularly through our commitment to providing an excellent education to the state’s top high school graduates.

Our friends at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) thought it would be a good time to say “thank you” to the citizens of the state. They have put up billboards around the state thanking each county for their contribution to UW.

We also thought a scoop of Babcock Ice Cream might be popular. WFAA loaded up a red and white ice cream truck this summer and it traveled thousands of miles around the state giving out free scoops of ice cream. The pictures and video from the tour (found heredemonstrate that Babcock ice cream remains one of our best-loved products.

I’m very proud of how we’ve developed and grown our partnership with Wisconsin. We have an obligation to the young adults in this state and we are fulfilling that obligation.