Background: The Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board administers the Minority Undergraduate Retention Program, a taxpayer-funded scholarship available to minority undergraduates enrolled in private, nonprofit higher educational institutions or in technical colleges in Wisconsin.
The minority undergraduates eligible for the taxpayer-funded program, according to state law
, are: Black American, American Indian, Hispanic, and those specifically from Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia who immigrated after 1975. These narrow racial and national origin criteria mean other students—Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, North African, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, resident aliens from Africa, or White, for example—are ineligible to receive a scholarship.
The eligibility categories in the Minority Undergraduate Retention Program amount to discrimination based on race, national origin, and alienage, a practice clearly forbidden by the Wisconsin Constitution. The state of Wisconsin can offer aid based on need, income-level, family background, or even location – but not race. WILL’s clients are seeking a declaration, from the court, that this program is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing its race-based qualifications.