UW System offers tuition break for nursing students’ help in hospitals, nursing homes

MADISON, Wis. — As COVID cases continue to overwhelm our hospitals, UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson said, “We have a terrible situation in Wisconsin.”

Thompson said he wanted to find a way for the universities across the state to get involved and be part of the solution. Thompson announced a new program to its 4,000 nursing students statewide: Help out in nursing homes and hospitals to aid in the pandemic in exchange for the learning experience and $500 tuition credit.

Many nursing students are jumping at the opportunity to help the frontline workers.

“It’s been hard sitting here seeing everything on the news about how things are getting worse,” said senior nursing student at UW- Madison, Kate Rolling.

“I think the more hands we have on deck to distribute the vaccines, the better,” said Rebekka Esbensen, a senior nursing student at UW-Madison.

But not all nursing students are jumping onboard. Kelsey Weddig, a first-year nursing student, has a chronic medical condition that places her in a high-risk category if she’s exposed to COVID patients. On top of her medical reason, she said the tuition break isn’t enough incentive.

“I know that funding is tight for the state in what they’ve been trying to do for COVID 19 efforts, but I feel like if students are being asked to put themselves on the frontlines, especially when in clinicals we aren’t even supposed to be working with COVID patients that we deserve more than $500 off our tuition,” Weddig said.

Weddig also said that when the announcement was released, there were no details describing what the students would be doing and she didn’t want to commit to something she wasn’t 100% sure about. She also said she’d be more willing to help out in a non-COVID unit at the hospital where more nurses were needed.

For the students interested in getting involved, the experience alone is enough.

“I think the experience outweighs any sort of payment we could get. I mean I would be doing this for free,” said Esbensen.

Students who are interested are waiting to be matched with an assignment and work location from local hospitals and nursing homes.

Thompson said the students will get paid on the job on top of the tuition break, and that the program will continue for as long as it’s needed.