Federal spending bill includes half-million-dollar boost for Odyssey Project

Chancellor Blank standing with co-director Emily Auerbach and Odyssey students

The UW Odyssey Project was one of about a dozen University of Wisconsin–Madison initiatives receiving funds from the 2022 spending plan passed by Congress and signed by President Biden.

The $1.5 trillion bipartisan appropriations package provides significant funding for UW–Madison initiatives and includes other provisions to boost college affordability and federally funded research.

“This legislation provides crucial funding for cutting-edge university research and projects, and will improve health, drive innovation and create a more prosperous Wisconsin,” said UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

The Odyssey Project is slated to receive $500,000 for its mission to empower whole families living at the poverty level to overcome adversity and achieve dreams through education. Now in its 19th year, Odyssey provides free college courses and wrap-around support to adult learners historically labeled “not college material” as well as precollege enrichment for their children.

An independent evaluation of Odyssey found that after completing the program, the number of students living in poverty has been nearly cut in half. Three-quarters of Odyssey students continue in college, some moving from homelessness and incarceration to associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.

“We applaud Wisconsin’s congressional leaders for their commitment to funding research and programs that invest in the future of our state and university,” Blank said. “Congressman Mark Pocan and Senator Tammy Baldwin, both members of the Appropriations Committee, were particularly instrumental in crafting this legislation and championing priorities for UW–Madison and the state of Wisconsin.”

In addition to a six-credit English course for low-income adults, the UW Odyssey Project includes Odyssey Junior for children and grandchildren of Odyssey students; Onward Odyssey for students continuing their education; and Odyssey Beyond Bars, college jumpstart programs for students incarcerated in Wisconsin state prisons.

“Our whole Odyssey team feels so grateful for this life-changing federal funding,” said Odyssey Co-Director Emily Auerbach. “We will expand our Odyssey Family Learning Center, empower more of our students and alumni to keep going in school, provide greater enrichment for their children, and bring transformative education into more Wisconsin prisons.”

UW–Madison’s Office of Federal Relations – located in the university’s Washington D.C. office – worked closely with campus stakeholders and Rep. Pocan and Sen. Baldwin to secure support for these critical new investments.