MAPLE BLUFF (WKOW) -- Two years ago, incoming high school freshmen became part of something new. The Wisconsin Covenant was billed as a way to make it easier to get into college.
"It was my parents that gave me the push to sign it," recounts Madison East High junior Mariah Burmah.
Now, the 17,000 students who signed the Covenant that first year are juniors. Burmah wants to attend UW-Madison and earn a law degree.
Tony Maduka, also a junior at East, would like to earn a business degree. He signed the Covenant, a deal that says students who meet certain goals in high school will be guaranteed a spot at a Wisconsin college or university.
"I know it was about college, but I wasn't sure at the time," recounts Maduka.
"At first, I didn't know what it was about, it was free money, basically, they said," agreed Burmah.
Part of that promise is now coming true. Governor Doyle announced $1500 grants that will be made available for students from low-income families who complete the goals of the Covenant.
The money will come from a private endowment by the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, which currently totals $40 million.
The foundation's head, Dick George, said "One of the purposes of this early promise today is to give credibility, give wherewithal, to the fact that there will be resources available to honor the promise that we have all made to you."
Low-income or not, students who make the pledge must finish high school, maintain a B-average or better, take certain courses, and meet conduct standards.
Doyle said there has been national interest in the program, as the first crop of students who signed up in high school inch closer to college.
"People want to see how this works," said Doyle. "Whether we really get more people going to college as a result of it."
Many of the students at Friday's event said the new grants will keep a carrot dangled in front of them for motivation. "I'm looking forward to it," said Maduka. "It'll make me want to work harder."
Meanwhile, for other students who signed up for the Covenant, state lawmakers approved $25 million a year in the budget for possible assistance. The rules on who might qualify those funds will be established by the end of the school year.
So far, after three incoming classes of high school freshmen, about 50,000 students have collectively signed up for the Wisconsin Covenant.
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MAPLE BLUFF (WKOW) -- Governor Jim Doyle told two dozen high school students that if the state is going to make a deal with them, then he has to offer something, as well.
At the Executive Residence on Friday, Doyle said students who meet the goals of the Wisconsin Covenant and who are in low-income families will receive a $1,500 grant to help offset college expenses.
Three years ago, students entering high school were allowed to sign up for the covenant. If they meet certain academic and conduct goals, the state would guarantee admission to a public university of college.
17,000 students signed up the first year. More than 50,000 total are now part of the program since its inception. Questions about details and funding have lingered.
Carl Agnelly was at today's announcement and spoke with high school juniors who signed up. Tonight at 5 & 6, their reaction, as well as why one of the chief managers of the program of the $1,500 grants will give the Wisconsin Covenant credibility.
MADISON (WKOW) -- Representatives from Governor Jim Doyle's office said more details will be announced about the Wisconsin Covenant this morning.
This is the third school year in a row that the program has existed. It allowed students who sign up and agree to certain academic and conduct standards to be guaranteed college admission in Wisconsin.
Since its inception, there has been concerns how to fully fund the program. The first group of students who signed up are now high school juniors.
In September, state officials reported that in 2011, about 17,000 students could be ready to have the state made good on its end of the bargain. At the time, there was about $65 million in special grants waiting for those students. There is no estimated grand total.
Carl Agnelly is taking a closer look at the education deal; watch 27 News beginning at 5 for more details on Doyle's announcement.