From “Nicolet College hosts ‘Return to Learning’ event” – On Thursday night, Nicolet College held “Returning to Learning” an event designed to give adults and others returning to school after being out of school for any period of time all the information they need in order to enroll at Nicolet.

“It’s a great event because they can come to one place and talk to everybody. They can talk to someone about financial aid, career assessment and find out about all the other services we have going on here,” said Nancy Burns, placement specialist and career coach at Nicolet.

This is the fourth “Returning to Learning” event Nicolet College has held since beginning the program two years ago. Nicolet holds the event in the spring and in the fall.

“We try to tailor the event for people who are coming back to school after being out of school for a while,” said Sandy Kinney, executive director of communications and college and community initiatives. “All of the research and studies on people going back is that adult returning learners have different learning concerns than people coming out of high school, so we wanted to do an event that would address what their concerns are and what their needs are.”

Where similar events for high school students are highly structured with presentations and tours, “Returning to Learning” is a drop-in event designed to accommodate the busy schedules of those looking to go back to school.

“Adults are busy. They’re squeezing this in between things, and they need to be able to just come in, get the answers to the questions they need, skip the things they don’t need, and be able to leave again,” said Kinney. “So we set it up in this open time format so people could drop in at the end of the day, after work or after dinner, whatever works for them.”

Kinney said visitors to the event have usually put a lot of thought into going back to school, but they need more answers and information before deciding to enroll. Additionally, the event is a steppingstone for potential students. It begins a dialogue between students and the college, allowing the Nicolet staff to guide the individual through the admission and enrollment process, answering any questions along the way.

“We see people that are serious about coming back to school,” said Kinney. “Research will show that adults typically will take two to three years from the time they start thinking about going back to school to when they actually do it. So we see people at different stages in that process. Some that are just kind of playing with the idea, wondering, ‘What do you have at Nicolet, I know I’m not moving somewhere to go to school…so what do you have?’ and we have that, all the way to people who walk in the door and say, ‘I know exactly what I want. I want to enroll in this program, and can I start this summer?’ So there’s a whole range.”

A variety of Nicolet staff members, including deans, instructors, career coaches and academic advisors, as well as faculty members to help with financial aid and admission questions, were on hand to meet the needs of any individual who stopped in.

Several academic advisors were available to answer questions about coursework, credits and transfer options. The advisors also were able to tell students if they qualified to receive credits for prior learning or work experiences.

Tom Raykovich, a transitions counselor at Nicolet, was available to help answer any enrollment questions potential students might have. Raykovich, who runs the assessment center at Nicolet, said he helps students prepare for placement testing in order to make sure they enroll in classes that match their abilities.

“We take students no matter where their skills are, and we get them where they need to be,” said Raykovich.

This differs from the UW System, where a certain ACT score is usually required for enrollment consideration.

“We test, but just to find out where the skills are, and then we figure out where to place them. It’s an open-door policy,” said Raykovich.

Financial Aid Director Jill Price answered questions students had about financial aid, and gave them advice on how they could pay for college.

“Most of our students, without financial aid, wouldn’t be able to afford college,” she said.”We talk about the options they have and give them information.”

Price stressed to potential students the importance of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which allows students to be eligible for federal grants and loans. She said students often think they won’t qualify for FAFSA loans and grants, but she always tells them that, “They won’t know until they try.”

Kinney said many of the community members who attend this event eventually attend Nicolet .

“What we do see is that out of people who come to this event, a very high percentage end up enrolling,” she said.

Dean of Trade and Industry Brigitte Parsons said the event is about helping potential students find the answers to all of their questions about college enrollment.

“This is a place where they can come and explore, ask questions, find out, ‘How much money will I make if I major in welding or if I major in nursing?’ or ‘How quickly can I transfer to a university?’ so there’s a lot of questions we can answer on a night like this,” she said.

Western referendum passes

November 7, 2012

From “Western, North Side school referendums ride high on local support” – Voters appeared to back Western Technical College’s plan to add students and update facilities with a strong showing of support Tuesday for the school’s $79.8 million referendum.

By early this morning, 53.4 percent had voted “yes” with 202 of 211 precincts reporting.

The money will fund six building projects, including remodeling of the college’s technology building and the Coleman and Kumm centers. The extra learning space will allow Western to serve an additional 1,000 students by 2020. It will also benefit the region’s economy, Western President Lee Rasch said.

“There is a skilled worker shortage, and it’s in manufacturing and information technology,” Rasch said. “Those are really key areas for us.”

Property taxes will increase by about $39 a year on homes worth $100,000.

The referendum covers:

  • $32.6 million for an addition to the technology building to combine the school’s mechanical and tech programs.
  • $26.5 million remodel of Coleman Center to update the 89-year-old space with more efficient, flexible learning areas.
  • $10.1 million remodel of the Kumm Center, for new health and science facilities.
  • $4.9 million for a parking ramp
  • $4.1 million expansion of Western’s diesel training facilities.
  • $1.6 million for a greenhouse near Seventh and Vine street

Western’s growth will have a $97 million impact on the regional economy by 2034, according to an economic report by NorthStar Consulting Group. Construction alone will have an estimated economic impact of $112 million by 2016.

“It’s going to make a difference,” Rasch said.

West Salem resident Bob Severson, 59, said he supported the referendum because the changes will help people learn valuable workplace skills.

“I went there myself and I think that’s going to be the crux of getting the right training,” Severson said.

Western will borrow the money for the building projects, adding to existing debt of about $58 million.

Wisconsin technical colleges can’t use referendum dollars for operating costs – unlike school districts — so they are less frequent. Western’s last referendum was more than 15 years ago, when 64 percent of voters agreed to pay for a $3 million chunk of the city’s Health Science Center.

A wave of support at the polls Tuesday also appears to have pushed through La Crosse School District’s $15.7 million referendum for a new North Side elementary school.

Voters in the La Crosse School District approved a building referendum. Final numbers show 21,494 yes votes to 10,424 no votes.

A new school will house teachers and students currently split between two aging facilities. Officials plan to build the new facility at 1611 Kane St., where the old Franklin Elementary School building stands.

“It’s going to mean a lot for our community, not just for the North Side,” Superintendent Randy Nelson said.

Taxpayers in the district could pay about $25 more on a home worth $100,000.

The prospect of higher taxes inspired 75-year-old La Crosse resident and retiree Kay Weldy to vote against the referendum.

“The taxes are too high as they are,” she said.

Franklin combined with Roosevelt about three years ago, and both run under the same administration, with grade levels divided between the two buildings.

Roosevelt, built in 1923, is the oldest school building in the district. Builders used clay tiles in the 1955 construction of Franklin, which has led to continual structural problems for the school.

Both buildings were slated for about $6 million of work, including about $2 million already bonded for heating and ventilation upgrades. Officials agreed to opt out of the bonded funds if voters passed today’s referendum.

The new building saves the district about $200,000 in operating costs each year.

Shelby resident David Loeffler, 63, said he voted “yes” on the referendum because he to ensure a quality education for future generations.

“I have a grandson and I want to make sure he gets everything he can,” Loeffler said.

Similar referendums in 2004 and 2008 failed to pass muster with voters, but this is a different time — when the community appears be favoring neighborhood revitalization in the wake of recent economic struggles, Nelson said.

“Things have changed,” he said.

From “Great Lakes Awards Grants to 14 Wisconsin Programs Improving College Completion” – Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Great Lakes) announced today that it has awarded $1.8 million in grants to 14 programs helping Wisconsin college students from disadvantaged backgrounds complete their degree, diploma, or certificate. Each recipient program will receive funding for services designed to strengthen the connection between these students and their campus or community, thereby improving persistence from semester-to-semester and year-to-year.

Studies show that students lacking socioeconomic or educational advantages — including students of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and those who are first in their families to attend college — are the most likely to leave college before completion. Not only do these students miss out on the benefits of postsecondary education, they are more likely to face higher unemployment rates and earn less income over their lifetime than peers who complete. In addition, students who drop out of college often leave with student loans to repay, but no credential with higher corresponding earnings to meet the costs of monthly payments.

Programs funded by Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants have developed specific strategies to address the unique challenges that their participating students face. Specialized services may include proactive advising, tutoring, mentoring, career exploration assistance, and placement in structured learning communities. The goal of each program is to increase their participants’ re-enrollment rates compared to those of similarly situated peers. Program outcomes will be used to identify what works best in increasing persistence and, ultimately, college completion to inform Great Lakes’ future funding decisions.

“We are pleased to partner with Wisconsin colleges, universities, and community-based organizations in their efforts to provide targeted services designed to help disadvantaged students finish their postsecondary education,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “The results-focused approaches these programs use can become models for programs elsewhere, and can help ensure that more students are able to reach their full potential.”

Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants have been awarded through Great Lakes’ philanthropic Community Investments program to the following recipients:

Alverno College, Milwaukee Promise Scholars Based on a successful pilot that featured a proactive advising model, this program has been awarded $151,425 to increase participation from 131 students to 250 first-generation students.

Carroll University, Waukesha Project 2016 Students in this program, 40 incoming freshmen from low-income backgrounds, will meet weekly with an advisor, attend five workshops designed to connect them to on-campus resources, and receive academic help, thanks to this $62,527 grant.

College Possible, Milwaukee College Program College Possible uses a technology-based coaching model, making use of social media, social networking, and texting to connect participating students to campus resources, to each other, and to potential employers. More than 1,300 students from Wisconsin who are attending colleges across the country will benefit from this $255,904 grant.

Madison Area Technical College Mentoring Minority Male Scholars Program (3MSP) Through this program, 40 students of color will benefit from meeting monthly with a faculty or staff mentor, as well as being part of a strong learning community. A grant of $75,608 has been awarded to expand this program to female students.

Milwaukee Area Technical College Student Support Retention Pathway (SSRP) This program supports students who have been conditionally admitted, which means their standardized test scores do not meet the minimum requirements. Through the help of a $208,407 grant, 300 of these students will be paired with another student in the program, will receive tutoring, and will be required to attend workshops on topics such as study skills and test taking.

Mount Mary College, Milwaukee Promise Plus A $214,000 grant for this program, designed to address the non-academic challenges of staying in college, will expand services to 60 students. These students will be mentored by older students in the program using online and offline methods.

St. Norbert College, De Pere Students Taking Academic Responsibility (STAR) This program provides services to assist 35 first-year students of color in adjusting to their new environment and overcoming challenges they may face. Thanks to this $61,606 grant, students will be able to participate in weekly meals, study hours, and meetings throughout the year.

United Community Center, Milwaukee Abriendo Puertas This community-based program serves Latino undergraduates from low-income backgrounds attending Milwaukee-area universities. A $155,260 grant will help 150 students identify a career path and provide them with financial counseling, professional networking, and mentoring in partnership with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Blugold Beginnings Learning Community for Underrepresented Students A $148,108 grant will provide 40 students with placement in a peer group that attends classes together and has weekly meetings with a peer mentor and bi-weekly meetings with a faculty or staff coach.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Commanding English This program was created for students who show great potential, despite lower grade point averages and standardized test scores. The 22 participating students have been granted admission to UW-Eau Claire contingent upon participation in this one-year program. Students take skill-building classes and general education courses together as a learning community. A grant of $40,665 has been awarded to this program.

University of Wisconsin – Marathon County Student Support Services (SSS) Through this program, 165 students with lower grade point averages or standardized test scores will meet weekly with a learning strategy specialist, explore majors, and learn about ways to fund their education. Most of the key staff in this program, which has been awarded a $67,055 grant, are first-generation college students themselves.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Life Impact Program This $146,322 grant will help to serve 40 parent-students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students in this program, which provides services throughout their time at UW-Milwaukee, will be required to attend workshops and will have access to a team of life coaches, as well as a resource center.

University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Student Support Services (SSS)

This $169,420 grant will help to expand the program to serve 150 additional students. These students will receive advising and peer support, and be part of small learning groups led by an experienced program student.

University of Wisconsin – Parkside Project Success A $51,272 grant will help this structured learning community provide career course and assessment help, placement in a reading and composition course, and tutoring to 50 students through a team of students, instructors, peer coaches, and advisors.

For more information on Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants and other Community Investments initiatives, visit or contact Amy Kerwin at or (608) 246-1785.

From “Area colleges plan for rise in online enrollment” – Local college students are gearing up to write papers and take exams, but not all of them will head back to campus.

Instead, many will complete coursework outside the classroom. The percentage of courses taken online at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College by students seeking technical diplomas or associate degrees increased from 13.26 percent in 2007-08 to nearly 18 percent last year.

“We can see clearly there’s been an interest on the customer side,” said Anne Kamps, director of learning support services for NWTC. “But quality is also important. We wouldn’t do it, if we couldn’t provide the quality without the rigor, quality and content as face-to-face.”

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert College also provide Internet options and administrators say they’re planning for growth in online coursework.

NWTC has been offering online options for about 12 years, and Kamps said classes began in general education and business classes. Each department had a representative involved from the beginning, she said.

In 2007-08, about 8,733 courses out of 65,868 for technical diploma and associate degree students at NWTC were taken online. Last year, 14,146 courses out of 78,700 were Internet based. That means the number of online courses taken increased by 62 percent in five years, while the overall number of courses increased by 19.5 percent in that period.

Since 2002, students taking online courses are mostly female, she said — 71 percent, compared with 29 percent male. Those taking traditional classroom courses are 54 percent women and 46 percent men, Kamps said.

Those who enroll in online courses tend to be older returning students, Kamps said. It usually takes people a little more than 12½ years after graduating high school to sign up for online coursework, compared with 8.4 years after high school to go back to traditional college courses.

Students participate both full and part time, she said, depending on the amount of financial aid they receive or life or work needs.

Online courses also save money and travel time for many students who live outside Brown County, she said.

Expansion “sure makes sense,” Kamps said. “We’re thinking about,‘Which programs and courses should we be looking at? What tools are available?’ We want to make sure we can deliver all that makes sense.”

Web conferencing programs, similar to Skype, likely will be expanded as a way to make online classes more engaging, she said.

“Could we make it even more visual?” Kamps said. “We’re always looking at new ways to promote learning.”

Many of UW-Green Bay’s older returning students prefer online coursework, said Christina Trombley, director of the university’s adult degree program.

“They may have full-time jobs, have families, be caretakers and be very active in the community,” she said. “This is a very accessible way to get education.”

She said the majority of of UW-Green Bay’s adult degree students take some or most classes online. The program offers 85 online classes this fall — some are completely online while others incorporate some classroom time. They may also take online classes.

Interactive or web-conferencing classes are available, she said.But most classes are completely online, she said.

She said the demographics of returning students is getting younger.

“Students used to be in their 40s and 50s,” Trombley said. “We still get those, but the age count is lower. We’re seeing students who are a year or two our of getting an associates, all the way up.”

She expects the popularity of online classes to continue.

“We’re showing that by 2020 returning adults could outpace traditional students,” she said. “And returning students want online classes.”

When it comes to online learning, St. Norbert College offers mostly blended classes — a mix of face-to-face instruction and online work.

The private college has a digital learning initiativestaskforce and is studying ways to incorporate online options, said Bridget Krage O’Connor, vice president for enrollment management and communications.

“In general, more classes will be blended,” she said. “That is going to be the future.”

From “BTC looks at options for training center” – Blackhawk Technical College officials are looking at “other possibilities” to build an advanced manufacturing center after meeting with representatives of the Hendricks Development Group Friday.

The plan was to locate the center at Beloit’s Ironworks Complex, and Blackhawk Technical College President Tom Eckert stressed that it doesn’t mean the center won’t end up there.

“We just want to explore other possibilities, and look to see what’s out there and exhaust all those other possibilities,” he said.

Eckert said the meeting with the Hendricks organization was “very positive” and both groups remain committed to creating a facility that works for the college.

“Hendricks was clear that whether the Ironworks or other locations are used wasn’t the main focus, but the important point was where we can build this training center,” he said.

Eckert said they haven’t begun to look at other locations, and are currently working on a more definitive plan.

Eckert also said he wouldn’t say whether the goal was to start the project in the spring.

“I would not say that the project is on hold,” he said. “We want to explore different possibilities just so that whatever we do we do it the right way.”

Rob Gerbitz, president and COO of Hendricks Development Group, also said the meeting with the college went well.

Gerbitz reiterated Eckert’s statement that the location of the center isn’t what is important at the moment.

“I think this is a large investment by the college and by everybody involved,” he said. “It really comes down to we want to make this facility and the most important thing is the education that will come from this facility.”

Eckert said last week the start of the renovations at the Ironworks building wouldn’t start until at least the spring because the college hadn’t raised enough funds.

About $10 million to $12 million needed to be raised to finance the renovations. Eckert said the college couldn’t afford to add the costs of the renovations to the lease, which is what the owner of a property normally does.

Instead the college attempted to raise the money needed for the renovations up front.

The center is needed in order to meet demand for some of the manufacturing programs the college offers. A third welding program section was added for this upcoming school year in order to lower the amount of students on the waiting list.

Eckert said welding classes will be held from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at its central campus in Janseville.

“We have no doubt that if we build this facility and can make it come to pass we’re going to see more students apply,” he said.

From  Filling the skilled worker gap — DOOR COUNTY — Consider this: according to the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturers Alliance, one out of every two northeastern Wisconsin manufacturing companies is going to have trouble finding skilled workers in 2012.

Meanwhile, Door County’s unemployment rate for June 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, remains at 8.1 percent. While that’s a full point lower than the county’s unemployment rate this time last year, it’s still much higher than the 5 percent or less the county was seeing in summers before 2009.

There are workers who need jobs, and there are jobs that need workers. They just don’t seem to be finding each other.

“It starts at the national level, and it’s a repeating theme right down to the local level,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North, Inc. “There are skills and training missing, most of which have to do with secondary degrees.”

New North is a marketing and economic development organization that monitors and links businesses in 18 counties throughout northeastern Wisconsin, including Door County.

Murphy says the businesses New North works with recognize the problem they’re facing and are getting involved to find a solution.

“What I think is unique about northeastern Wisconsin is the very genuine, very sincere partnership…between education and business institutions,” he says. “There’s a ready acceptance on the part of the business community that they have to be involved.”

In Door County, schools and businesses have struck up a couple of initiatives designed to train a new skilled labor workforce.

Building a Better Workforce

About 50 high school students from Door and Kewaunee counties have participated in the Door-Kewaunee Business and Education Partnership’s (DKBEP) annual home construction program, which is currently in its sixth year.

According to Tara LeClair, DKBEP business and education manager, almost 60 percent of those students have gone on to some sort of trade-related program at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

“Our big focus is on high school kids, encouraging them and training them,” says LeClair.

DKBEP also offers a high school Certified Nursing Assistant Program, a Youth Co-op Program where students can ‘try on’ a career for a semester, and schedules tours so students can see what goes on inside area businesses.

“The biggest challenge in shaping students’ perceptions is in, say, manufacturing,” says LeClair. “Lots of students view those jobs as dark, dirty, dingy jobs, but that’s not true. A lot of tours we schedule with schools open kids’ eyes.”

Something relatively new to the area is the Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Mobile Lab that has been travelling from school to school in the region since last September, allowing students to practice running computer-operated equipment and earn NWTC credit from the comfort of their own schools.

The purchase and operation of the lab was made possible through a partnership between DKEBP, NWTC, area high schools, and local businesses like N.E.W Industries, a CNC production company in Sturgeon Bay.

N.E.W President and C.E.O. Chris Moore says he currently has 200 workers on staff, and he’s perennially looking for 10 to 12 more people to fill open positions. He’s hopeful new projects like the mobile lab will help revive interest in manufacturing careers.

“The biggest challenge anybody in this business faces right now is finding enough qualified people for our workforce,” says Moore. “Everybody recognizes the fact that, especially at the high school level, students don’t have an interest.”

Sturgeon Bay Schools Superintendent Joe Stutting, whose students are involved in both the home construction and mobile lab projects, says he’s looking for ways to revive that interest and show students they don’t necessarily need to attend a traditional college to have a great career.

“The notion that to have a successful career you need a four-year degree is something we’ve been battling for awhile,” he says. “The truth is you just need to get something. We’re looking to see how we can align with the technical college and to see what we can do to help kids down that pathway sooner.”

Training Today’s Workers for Tomorrow

But it’s not just the workforce of the future that needs training. According to Murphy, workers already in the job market need to retrain themselves, so they, too, can claim unfilled jobs.

“I don’t think the job market is static. If it was people could wait out the storm,” he says. “The demands on the workforce are very dynamic, and you have to be investing in yourself.”

According to Melissa Emery, associate director at the Door County Job Center, about 300 displaced workers in the county have taken advantage of federal Workforce Investment Act funds, which can be used to provide training for high-demand occupations in fields such as medical care, welding, and CNC operation.

“We work with a case manager and work on getting them into NWTC usually,” says Emery.

Some resources are also available for businesses seeking to make sure their current workforce’s skills don’t become obsolete.

Sheila Curtin, who works in Corporate Training at NWTC, says the Washington Island Ferry Line and Heat Treat Furnaces, Inc. (HTF) have both recently received Workforce Advancement Training grants from the state, which provided funding for on-the-job training.

“For the ferry line, we did training in welding and marine diesel,” says Curtin. “HTF was computer design and modeling. They secured a contract and needed to upscale their business.”

The grants are competitive, and not every business is likely to receive one, but Curtin says businesses and workers must constantly monitor where they may have fallen behind and look for ways to catch up.

“For workers and companies…you need to address skill gaps to remain competitive. Because it is very competitive out there,” she says.

Workers Mean Business

Of course, the big push behind training all of these workers in Door County comes packaged with the hope they, and the businesses they work for, will stay in Door County.

“We need youth to come back here and raise families here, which will help with our business growth,” says LeClair. “We benefit a lot by the fact that businesses understand this, that they have to open their doors to kids.”

Cheryl Tieman, coordinator for NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay campus, says the community is taking a lot of the right steps toward keeping businesses in the area.

“There are a lot of things being done locally that make us a good place to locate,” she says. “The number of people graduating from high school is getting smaller, but there are professionals moving into the area.”

As for the skilled worker gap, Murphy says he’s optimistic it will close given enough time.

“I think our public resources are doing a great job and business involvement is incredible. What we need to do longer term is make sure schools, parents, and communities are on board,” he says. “These are hugely significant occupations and add a huge amount to our GDP. We need to be invested in the next generation, or we’ll lose it.”

From  Column:  High schoolers able to double dip at MSTC – Technical colleges are specialists in transitioning students from kindergarten through 12th grade into higher education.

Mid-State Technical College’s, or MSTC, dual credit program allows high school students to “double-dip” by earning college credits while in high school and applying these same credits toward their high school graduation.

When cost is an issue, dual credit is a great way to stretch dollars and reduce the cost of a college education. High school juniors and seniors all across the MSTC district already are enthusiastically taking advantage of the program to jumpstart their college careers. Dual credit courses offered in high schools use MSTC’s college curriculum and are taught by Wisconsin Technical College System certified high school faculty. Since participants are exposed to higher education at an earlier age, the path to a degree and a good-paying career is put on the fast-track.

Technical college dual credit has a proven track record for more than 20 years. We know that more than 20,000 high school students a year receive such credit from technical colleges. This model has thrived in Wisconsin and is considered a gold standard in higher education across the United States.

MSTC employees help ease the transition to college by helping individual high school students with student services such as career planning and financial aid. Dual credit students are more likely to enroll in college and more likely to complete an MSTC degree or certificate. Education doesn’t have to end with a technical college degree; many MSTC students extend their education at a four-year institution.

Our relationships with high schools throughout the MSTC district remain strong. This past academic year, nearly 400 students earned more than 1,000 credits through MSTC’s dual credit program. For these students, dual-credit means a top-quality education in less time for less money. For local businesses, dual credit is another source of well-trained graduates entering the local workforce.

If we are to continue fostering economic development and job creation in our state, we must take the necessary steps to prepare students for college and the world of work. This flexible degree option is an important and effective tool for giving students the skill set and hands-on experience they need to succeed in postsecondary education and the local workforce.

I encourage high school students and parents to investigate the many benefits of dual credit. For more information about MSTC’s dual credit program or any of MSTC’s many other programs and services, call 888-575-6782.

Sue Budjac is president of Mid-State Technical College.

From  Editorial — Bettsey L. Barhorst:  Review for-profit college report before picking school — Last week, the findings of a two-year investigation of the for-profit higher education industry were released.

At best, the report documents predatory recruiting practices and “gaming regulations to maximize profits” at the expense of taxpayers. At worst, the report reveals that these colleges place the desire to fatten their bottom line above the interests of students.

As an institution that is publicly funded, we take offense to that. So should every taxpayer.

Madison College’s mission is to provide accessible, high-quality learning experiences that serve the community. We do that by offering tuition that is 75 percent less than that of the average for-profit college.

We prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to join the workforce. More than 89 percent of students trained at Madison College are employed within six months, compared to 77 percent of those trained at for-profit schools.

And we invest heavily in programs and services that support student success — not in salespeople and glitzy advertising to recruit students who will assume massive, long-term debt.

The report is available on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee website (search for Harkin report). It outlines many other startling contrasts between for-profit colleges and those that are publicly funded.

Selecting a college is among the most important decisions one will ever make. Choose wisely.

— Bettsey L. Barhorst, president,

Madison College

From “Dual enrollment provides Moraine Park students with learning advantage” – When Jasmyn Clough graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 2008, she had completed enough transcripted credit courses to count as two classes in Moraine Park Technical College’s Business Management program. While an accident kept Clough from enrolling at Moraine Park directly out of high school, in 2010, she was able to hit the ground running with two college classes under her belt.

Clough, who graduates this December, isn’t stopping with her Business Management associate of applied science degree. Instead, she is taking advantage of the transfer agreements set in place by Moraine Park and will be entering Cardinal Stritch University at junior status as a Business Management student in the spring of 2013. She’s on a track that will allow her to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in two years.

Clough is a perfect example of how transcripted credits, or dual enrollment, creates an economically savvy, time-saving path to success. “I’m a first-generation college student and am making my family proud by obtaining a Moraine Park associated of applied science degree then continuing my education,” Clough said. “I’m always looking one step ahead and the transfer agreement with Cardinal Stritch is helping me continue this pattern.”

Transcripted credit/dual enrollment has been offered at Moraine Park for almost 20 years. Transcripted credit courses are Moraine Park courses taught in the high school using technical college curriculum, grading policies and textbooks. In addition to Moraine Park, these credits are transferable to all colleges within the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The numbers line up and high school students are saving money through this seamless dual enrollment transition. In 2010-11, high school students in Moraine Park’s district earned over $1.2 million worth of college credits – 4,183 took transcripted credits with a total of 9,871 credits completed. There are 216 transcripted credit agreements with public schools in Moraine Park’s district.

“I encourage high school students to inquire about dual enrolled options with their counselors,” said Moraine Park president Sheila Ruhland. “If you are seeking avenues for cost savings and time shortened programs as you enter college, enrolling in these classes as a high school student is an excellent first choice!”

Taking it to the next step of transferring from a two-year to four-year degree, Moraine Park has a full-time Academic Support and Transfer Specialist who works to secure agreements and support students as they transition from Moraine Park to a bachelor’s degree path. In 2011-12, more than 150 Moraine Park students were guided through the transfer process.

“The college currently has agreements with 36 four-year institutions, said Karla Donahue, Moraine Park academic support and transfer specialist” From those 36 colleges and universities, students can choose from 111 different specific program pathways.

At Cardinal Stritch, for example, 15 different degree options exist for Moraine Park students to choose from when they decide on the transferring option.  Every spring, Moraine Park holds a Transfer Fair when representatives from the 36 colleges with transfer agreements in place come to offer information and chat with Moraine Park students interested in transferring. Attending the Transfer Fair is how Clough became interested in attending Cardinal Stritch.

Diane Sexton had the idea of lifelong learning in mind when she enrolled in the accounting program at Moraine Park.  A solid associate of applied science foundation at Moraine Park, combined with an easy transition to Ottawa University, based out of Milwaukee, allowed Sexton to continue learning. She eventually obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration, and a master’s degree in business administration, also from Ottawa.

Students who complete their associate of applied science degree through Moraine Park can apply up to 80 credits toward an Ottawa University bachelor’s degree. Online and face-to-face programs are available to students in areas including business administration, health care management and accounting.

“The transition from Moraine Park to Ottawa University was extremely easy,” said Sexton. “My instructors at Moraine Park provided me with a very strong education in accounting which set me up for success at Ottawa.  Moraine Park got me back into the swing of going to school, and Ottawa allowed me to continue learning by accepting all of my credits from Moraine Park, allowing me to achieve my bachelor’s degree quickly.”

Dual Enrollment/transcripted credits, and transfer agreements continue to play a role in Moraine Park’s offering of flexible and convenient degree options. For more information on dual enrollment at Moraine Park, visit

From “NWTC program helps foster youth continue education” – It’s called Fostering Futuremakers, a five day camp, only in its second year at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, designed for high school juniors and seniors in the foster system.

“Our goal is to reach out to them, to provide them opportunities to in respect to academic preparation and development and offering them exploration opportunities in regards to careers and post secondary education,” explained Brooke Holbrook, a career preps specialist at NWTC.

The camp includes 18 hours of class time and tours of other campuses like UWGB and Saint Norbert College.

The students start the week taking the Accuplacer test– which is NWTC’s admission test.

“If they choose to attend NWTC, great, if not it still allows them preparation for any admissions test,” said Holbrook.

Some of those in the program we spoke with say it has helped them develop a plan for reaching their career goals.

“I’m thinking about doing the two year dental hygienist program here and then while I’m working as a dental hygienist I can save up money to go to college to become a dentist,” said Serena Shelton, a camper who will be a junior this school year.

“I want to do a criminal justice and I’m thinking about coming to NWTC and doing the two year program,” said camper Laura Hintz.

NWTC says it’s important to get more foster youth the resources they need to continue their education.

“We know statistics show one in eight foster youth within Wisconsin attend post secondary education as compared to their counterparts, one in two,” explained Holbrook.

Something Fostering Futuremakers hopes to change.

From “Technical college system board to request funding increase for financial aid” – The Wisconsin Technical College System Board will request a $34.1 million increase – nearly twice what the system now gets – in state-financed grant money for student financial aid, a spokeswoman for the technical schools said Monday.

Morna Foy said that during a meeting in Superior last week the board chose the larger of two possible funding requests to be made to the state Higher Educational Aids Board.

The request will be for Wisconsin Higher Education Grants. The grants, administered by the Higher Educational Aids Board, are intended for Wisconsin residents enrolled at least half-time in the technical college system, University of Wisconsin System or tribal colleges. The grants are based on need and cannot exceed $3,000.

For each of the last three years, the technical college board has received $18.7 million for the higher education grants.

The request the board approved asks for an additional $13.4 million for 2013-’14 and an additional $20.7 million for 2014-’15.

If the request makes it through the budget process, the technical college system would receive roughly $71.5 million in student financial aid money for the 2013-’15 budget instead of the $37.4 million it received for the current two-year system budget.

Board President Mark Tyler said he understands that there isn’t a lot of money available during tough economic times. He said the request is based on what is needed, but that might not be enough.

“Even if we get what we request, that will not meet the need,” Tyler said.

Foy said the system’s need for financial aid to support students has been growing over the last few years. For the 2005-’06 school year, the grant funding was available until early December 2005. The last two years, funding has been exhausted by early April. There were 49,000 students eligible for a grant who did not receive one for the next school year, according to statistics reviewed by the board.

“That’s more people than we gave a grant to,” Foy said.

The board’s request will be made to the Higher Educational Aids Board. There, it will be combined with the requests of other education systems, such as the UW System. That request then goes to the governor for consideration in the biennial state budget.

Before the last biennium, the technical college board requested an additional $23.4 million over two years in funding for the grants. The aid board sent the request on, but it did not make it into the governor’s proposed budget.

Despite not getting what the board requested, Foy said that financial aid was in a sense protected because it did not face the same cuts as other areas of public education.

Foy said it is worrisome for the state’s workforce development to have students unable to attend the technical colleges because of financial need. She said financial aid should be thought of more as public good, rather than something that benefits one individual.

“We all benefit when our public is educated,” Foy said.

The board also approved seeking a statutory change that would tie appropriations for financial aid to tuition changes. A similar proposal was considered by the Legislature in 2011 but did not pass.

In other action, the board established a search committee to find a replacement for retiring system President Dan Clancy.

Tyler will chair the committee and will be joined by three other board members, a representative of the technical college presidents, a member of the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association and a representative from the governor’s office.

The goal is to have the new president in place by January.

From Reedsburg Times-Press: “MATC’s Reedsburg expansion impresses” — A stamp, the Titanic and Gladys.

Addressing about 80 people Monday during the unveiling of the new expansion at the Reedsburg branch of Madison Area Technical College, State Sen. Dale Schultz told the audience to think of those three things.

While it seemed a somewhat odd analogy to MATC’s 100th year of existence, Schultz, R-Richland Center, certainly had the crowd’s attention.

“In 1912, people literally put in their two cents because that’s how much a stamp cost,” Schultz said. “Today, people are paying more for a stamp, but they’re still putting in their two cents at the ballot box.

“I’m proud of (the people of) this community and others like it who passed the referendum to grant MATC the funds for these renovations. The community is giving back by investing what we know will pay back dividends to help create jobs.”

Schultz was referring to the successful passage of MATC’s $133.8 building referendum in November 2010, of which $2.4 million went to fund the 16,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of the Reedsburg campus.

His comparison to the shared anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was an illustration of people doing the right thing, even when it was believed to be negligent behavior from the ship’s captain and crew.

“Back in 1912, people put a lot less thought into preparations,” Schultz said. “If they would have been more prepared for evacuation, many more lives would have been saved. In MATC’s case, the renovations are a plan for the future.”

Finally, Schultz’s admonition to MATC officials was taken from Gladys Hardy, an 88-year-old Texas native who frequently calls into “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to share her hilarious opinions.

“Gladys always ends her phone calls with Ellen by saying, ‘keep on keeping on,’” Schultz said. “We all know these times aren’t easy, but I know better times are ahead. MATC of Reedsburg is leading the way.”

The guests for the unveiling and ribbon-cutting Monday included students, staff members, MATC trustees and executives, and local, county and state officials.

It was as though Gladys’ words were a focal point throughout the planning of the Reedsburg campus expansion. The advances in teaching technology have, at minimum, “kept keeping on” with the use of state-of-the-art teleconferencing that provides more resources and more courses that might not otherwise have been available at the Reedsburg campus.

The star of all of the technological advancements is the “telepresence” room that fundamentally changes the traditional classroom setting.

“Through the telepresence room, the whole Madison College can become a resource to students here in Reedsburg,” said project architect Dave Cameron, of Cameron Aslaksen Architects LLC in Reedsburg. “This can help with programming and scheduling.”

The telepresence room brings dramatic changes to teaching. The instructor sits in the gallery, along with the students, and is teleconferenced to the Reedsburg campus on three large screens. Students can view the entire lecture room of the other campus, hear the questions those students ask and clearly see who is asking the question.

For the open house Monday, developmental mathematics teacher Julie Steiner was in Portage, being teleconferenced to Reedsburg as a demonstration of the technology.

“Summer classes are pretty small,” Steiner said during the demonstration. “This gives us the opportunity to increase enrollment of these small classes. It’s especially nice for courses they can’t offer at the regional campuses because the (low) enrollment wouldn’t allow it.

“Students really get to know each other from other campuses (via telepresence). It’s so interesting to see how they develop relationships.”

Cameron said the same technology is used in smaller rooms for remote tutoring and counseling from Madison and other campuses for students in Reedsburg.

“We were some of the first to explore the idea of telepresence,” said MATC executive director of economic and workforce development John Alt. “But we called it ‘distance education.’

“We weren’t going to be able to grow our enrollment simply by being standalone campuses. So we started to collaborate. We took advantage of every technology that was out there. We’ve now added 30 new sections of courses,” Alt said.

“We’ve tried to be as innovative as possible in order to provide a wide diversity of courses to people in the area,” MATC operational director Scott Beard said. “The Portage campus has 25 percent greater enrollment than it did last fall, simply because we added two science classrooms and a small telepresence room.”

Along with the boost in technology came a new thrust to increase energy efficiency with the design.

The increases came partially in the form of energy-saving lighting, an increased use of natural lighting during daylight hours, water-conserving bathroom fixtures and energy-conserving, high-velocity blowers to replace paper towels for use in hand drying.

Cameron said that while the building design did not strive for a certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the design strives to follow LEED standards by being as “green” (environmentally compatible) as possible. Some of the LEED requirements include using recycled construction materials and energy-efficient appliances.

“We exceeded the LEED requirements,” Cameron said. “If you want to get LEED certified, a certain amount of money goes to professional services and the certification process itself.

“We want to be designed as a LEED Silver certification, but we really don’t have to have that plaque on the wall and go through all the calculation,” Cameron added. “Now, we’re able to reallocate the funding that would have gone to that red-tape process to purchase more efficient building materials.

“At MATC, there’s an advantage to being LEED certified, because you’re setting a community example,” Cameron said.

Cameron said the expansion wing was built with future growth in mind, hopefully saving more construction dollars down the road.

“There is glazing you can pop out and extend the corridor,” Cameron said. “You can add four more classrooms without adding any new corridors.”

Cameron said there had been a wish list for classrooms that would incorporate massage therapy or sleep disorder programs. However, he said, those had to be placed on a wish list for the future.

“Every square inch (of the building expansion) was carefully designed to maximize the learning experience of our students and the return on investment for our area taxpayers,” MATC Provost Terrance Webb said. “It is a new century of promise that excites us the most.

“The new construction here at Reedsburg — and eight other projects that are part of our smart future building plans — will enable us to provide our students with the tools and advance training that 21st century employers seek.”

State Assemblyman Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, said: “John (Alt) shows the pride of a new parent and the community shares that with you, John. Make sure as we go down the road, it isn’t one-size-fits-all.”

Reedsburg Mayor Dave Estes, once an MATC student, said he was “absolutely amazed” at the changes and technology on display.

“We’re all very proud of this campus,” Estes said. “The future of the Reedsburg area shines brighter with the partnership that’s been built with Madison College.”

From “Dual enrollment isn’t new” — By Barbara Prindeville, president Waukesha Area Technical College – The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the University of Wisconsin System and its two-year campuses made headlines recently for a dual-enrollment program that allows high school students to simultaneously earn credits toward graduation while earning college credit.

It’s good to see DPI and UW Colleges take a concrete step toward making higher education more affordable and efficient, but their approach is certainly not new. Waukesha County Technical College has had a similar, very successful program in place for more than 20 years.

WCTC leads Wisconsin’s 16 Technical College System in dual enrollment – this past academic year, nearly 5,000 students earned combined WCTC/high school credit. Through these partnerships, high school students are exposed to higher-level education at an earlier age, moving them much more quickly down the path to a degree and a good-paying career.

For students, dual-enrollment means a top-quality education in less time and for less money. For area businesses, it means a steady supply of well-trained graduates entering the local workforce. Eighty-nine percent of our graduates find jobs – right here in Waukesha and surrounding counties – within six months of earning their degrees.

Dual enrollment is most certainly a positive, and DPI and UW Colleges should be commended – after all, better late than never. But at a time when in-state tuition is skyrocketing, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging the UW System to do more to serve its students and our state faces a severe shortage of skilled workers, I would encourage a far bolder, more up-to-date strategy than adopting a “new” policy that others have used for decades.

WCTC enjoys productive partnerships with a number of four-year institutions, including Carroll University in our own backyard, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Marquette University, Mount Mary University and Alverno College – all of which grant our graduates full credit toward a bachelor’s degree for coursework already completed at WCTC.

UW-Milwaukee has begun accepting our electrical engineering and mechanical engineering technology graduates as juniors, recognizing their solid educational base and putting those students two years closer to a four-year degree and productive career. Other state universities should adopt similar policies.

If UW officials look outside their walls – and beyond their turf – they’ll find great possibilities for themselves, students and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin currently lags behind other Midwestern states in average earnings because our workforce has a lower percentage of people with four-year degrees. WCTC has tried to address that, and it’s good to see the UW System start to consider different ideas.

We need to foster economic development and job creation in our state. If the UW System is truly interested in streamlining the degree process, making higher education more affordable and more quickly producing well-trained graduates ready to contribute to Wisconsin’s economy, it should take a cue from UW-Milwaukee and others.

A more cooperative relationship between the UW System, WCTC and all of the state’s technical colleges would allow students to more easily transfer credits, earn four-year degrees and enter the “real world” ready for steady, good-paying employment.

Students would benefit from a more complete education, more specialized training, lower tuition costs, better jobs and higher wages. Local businesses would benefit by having a bigger pool of locally grown, highly educated talent with four-year degrees prepared to be a contributing part of the workforce. And Wisconsin would benefit from a stronger state economy and an environment that truly encourages and fosters business growth.

This is a great opportunity to help our state, and we should work together to take advantage of it. Our state, our taxpayers and, most important, our students will be the real winners.

From “A shortage of truck drivers nationwide leads an area tech school to look at expanding programs” – EAU CLAIRE – A shortage of truck drivers is leaving jobs unfilled, delaying some deliveries, and pushing up freight rates.

According to the American Trucking Association, the annual turnover rate at large carriers rose to a four-year high of 90 percent. In the first quarter last year it was 75 percent. Turnover at small carriers jumped even higher to 71 percent – up from 50 percent

The shortage leading to Chippewa Valley Technical College looking at ways to help fill the gap. Mark Fredrickson has been driving truck and training new drivers most of his professional career.

“It’s more of a life style than a job because it does take you away from your family for longer than an eight hour day and you can be gone around a week,” says Fredrickson.

A long haul that has led to more people quitting the industry and an increasing demand for drivers.

“I was just drove for a guy yesterday that lost two drivers,” says Fredrickson.

CVTC is trying to meet the demands of the industry by expanding its training program and making it more flexible for students.

“We find a lot of people are interested in getting their CDL but a lot of people can’t afford to quit their current job to take the course so we are trying to find ways to work around that.”

CVTC currently offers a CDL certification course every 8 weeks.
“I have twelve students right now and I expect all of them to have jobs after graduation,” says Fredrickson.

And in this economy students say that’s rare and something that’s not lost on them.

“I love it, big trucks heavy loads being on the road and meeting all the people it’s just fun,” says Christian Fredrickson

From “Program creates ‘Pathways’ to overcome employment barriers” – Note: This is part of a weekly series about jobs, local businesses and the economy.

Between working, going to school and raising three young children, Kristina Robertson has little free time.

The 25-year-old Wisconsin Rapids resident also is going through a divorce, doesn’t have a vehicle and is living with her mother while she earns her certified nursing assistant certificate from Mid-State Technical College.

Those obstacles might seem daunting, but Robertson said after participating in a local program that helps dislocated workers in south Wood County overcome such barriers, her outlook has become more positive.

“If I had my certification, I could get a little bit better-paying job and hopefully support myself,” she said.

Robertson is one of about 100 people participating in the Pathways program — a partnership among Incourage Community Foundation’s Workforce Central initiative, MSTC and other service-related agencies in the community — to help them overcome employment barriers and gain the skills they need to get a job, said Stephanie Bender, who coordinates the program.

“One of the primary things I’ve heard is that people have gained confidence in themselves and confidence in their ability to continue their education further,” Bender said.

While Robertson had to quit her full-time position at Creative Community Living Services — she became a relief worker there in order to go to school — the Pathways partnership has been an invaluable resource, she said.

“They help me out by providing day care, gas (money); they pay for the books and everything like that,” she said.

In addition to the certified nursing assistant class, which is part of the gerontology and memory care program, Pathways case managers also work with students in the customer service office technology, an accelerated GED class and a college preparation course, Bender said. In June, a manufacturing certification will be added to the list.

To others who are in similar situations but have reservations about whether to take the first step, Robertson had one piece of advice.

“They just have to have the encouragement to do it and the willpower,” she said. “Don’t let anyone put you down.”

From “Rising, UWMC, NTC enrollment reflects trends” – The University of Wisconsin Marathon County and Northcentral Technical College are part of a national trend that has seen college enrollment shoot up as the economy has struggled.

But the two public colleges differ from many four-year and private universities across the country because they have generally kept the same admission standards for years and rarely turn students away.

For the last five years or so, particularly during the recession, colleges across the country have been inundated with applications and from 2008 to 2009, enrollment in college grew by more than 7 percent to just under 21 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. New figures show that rates of enrollment still are increasing, though at a slower rate. In 2010, the number of students in postsecondary institutions was 21.6 million, up 2.8 percent from 2009.

At the same time, many colleges and other institutions have made their admission process more competitive, a trend described in a January 2008 Newsweek article titled “Getting in Gets Harder.”

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, has just completed a doctoral dissertation on enrollment trends. The economy has played a significant role in the increased interest in college, Borowicz said, because students realize they need more than a high school diploma to get a job. And colleges are facing budget cutbacks at the same time, so many have tightened admission standards.

NTC has not changed its admissions standards significantly, Borowicz said, except for students who want to enter health programs. Those were so popular there were waiting lists, Borowicz said, some stretching several years.

“That wasn’t serving us or the students well,” she said. Now students take an admission test and are accepted to health programs based on the results.

In other programs, no one ever is turned away, Borowicz said. Students with poor high school grades are allowed to enter remedial courses to qualify for NTC.

From “NTC adds flexible Virtual College” – Northcentral Technical College launched an innovative virtual college program this week that offers a maximum of flexibility for its students.

The new NTC Virtual College allows students to take nine general education classes that count toward a general studies certificate and can be applied to an associate degree. The credits earned also can be applied to four-year colleges that have credit reciprocity agreements with NTC, including University of Wisconsin universities.

NTC has offered online courses for several years, but the Virtual College has some substantial differences, said Susan Ryman, NTC Virtual College coordinator and student adviser.

Students can begin Virtual College courses whenever they choose, and they set their own learning schedules, Ryman said. “The program is ideal for people who wish to take classes but work full time, have a busy home life or are not able to come to campus,” she said.

Regular NTC online courses follow the regular NTC schedule, with the same assignments and deadlines as their classroom equivalents.

The Virtual College is ideal for David Zoromski, 48, of the town of Halsey. He’s the command chief master sergeant for the 115th Fighter Wing for the Wisconsin Air National Guard, based in Madison. That means he splits much of his time between his home and Madison, and often travels across the country.

“I’m unable to really take a traditional class,” Zoromski said.

The freedom offered by NTC Virtual College fits the life of Ashley Eisenberg, 22, of Reedsburg, as well. Eisenberg, who is Ryman’s niece, likes the online college because it allows her to work full time as an administrative assistant while getting some general education credits.

“I do think it’s really going to work out for me,” Eisenberg said. “I really like that it’s so self-paced.”

Zoromski said he hopes to finish an associate degree that he started through the Community College of the Air Force. In that program, the Air Force offers higher level courses, but general education classes need to be taken at an outside school.

He’s completing the degree for “personal satisfaction,” he said, but also to provide an example to the 1,000 airmen he leads.

“I just want them to see that you’re never too old to go back to school,” Zoromski said. He said even enlisted men will need to further their educations — earning at least associate degrees — to move up in Air Force ranks in the near future.

There are 12 students enrolled in the Virtual College right now, Ryman said, but she believes it’ll grow fast. She said she has been receiving five or six calls a day from people interested in the program.

This summer, classes for continuing education will be added to the offerings, and in the fall, business management and supervisory management associate degree programs will be offered. More will be added later.

Online learning will become more and more common, Ryman predicted.

“This is how people are learning,” Ryman said “This is how people are living their lives.”

From “Technical colleges see growing enrollment” – According to the Wisconsin technical college system, about 400,000 people enroll in the state’s technical colleges each year — a number that’s up from years past.

Over the past seven years, the number of applications to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College shot up 56 percent. Enrollment has seen a near 30-percent increase.

“We think that’s for a number of reasons. People are finding that technical education is the way to advance or start a career in Northeast Wisconsin because of our workforce,” Karen Smits, vice president of college advancement, said.

Jim Golembeski, executive director at Bay Area Workforce Development, said the job market is simply better for technical students.

“The truth is that if you look at jobs just in Wisconsin and even jobs in Northeast Wisconsin, more than half of those jobs are what we call middle skill jobs, and a middle skill job is defined as a job that requires more than high school but less than a four-year degree,” he said.

Eighty-five percent of technical college students in Wisconsin land jobs within six months of graduation.

The median salary is $36,000.

Technical college is also about getting more bang for your buck in the tough economic climate.

The average cost of a two-year program at NWTC ranges from $5,000 to $7,000. Compare that to a private, four-year college, which could cost upwards of $100,000.


From “Pathways Project opens doors for participants” – When Maria Eastman applied for financial assistance after losing her job in December, her caseworker gave the 31-year-old Wisconsin Rapids woman an alternative to simply receiving a check.

Eastman is one of 75 Wood County residents to participate in the Pathways Project, a joint venture of Wood County Human Services, Mid-State Technical College and Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County. The three organizations started the Pathways Project to give people collecting Food Share, formerly the food stamps program, an opportunity for new career paths.

“It’s something I really wanted to do,” Eastman said. “I took the Pathways Program Course instead of cash.”

Eastman became a certified nursing assistant and now has a job she loves, caring for young adults with mental health issues.

The Pathways Project uses a coordinator to work one-on-one with students to determine a career path for them. Participants without high school diplomas go into a GED certificate program. Those who have a diploma or their GED certificate can enter a certified nursing assistant or gerontology program.

During its first year, the Pathways Program reached people who have not succeeded in other programs, said Brandon Vruwink, Wood County Human Services W-2 supervisor.

“We’ve had a number of folks who have obtained good-paying, family sustaining, jobs,” Vruwink said.

Some participants have been able to get their GED diploma; others have gone on to post-secondary education at Mid-State Technical College.

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From “LTC unveils high-tech lab for technical education” – CLEVELAND — As technical education equipment becomes increasingly outdated and school budgets increasingly tight, closing the gap between Wisconsin’s high school students and employers requires some outside-the-box thinking.

The solution, it seems, is outside the classroom as well.

Lakeshore Technical College is among several organizations rolling out a mobile solution to the training gap, offering schools throughout northeastern Wisconsin a chance to become a weekly stop for a 44-foot trailer equipped with two computer numerical control (CNC) machines and space for 12 students. The Computer Integrated Manufacturing Mobile Lab was on display Thursday at LTC, giving local educators and business owners a chance to consider the possibilities.

“It’s cost-prohibitive for us to buy this kind of equipment, put it in our shop, so working at partnerships with LTC and (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College) and businesses is the only way we’re going to get these types of skills for our kids,” said Scott Fritz, principal of Howards Grove High School. “I think it’s a great idea, it’s just hammering out the logistics of how we can do it and get it incorporated into our curriculum.”

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From “FVTC partnering with district to make students more employable” – Tucked into the back sleeve of her binder is a piece of paper mapping out Miranda Martinez’s class schedule for the next few months.

Between classes, lab work and clinical sessions, Martinez will be busy. And that’s in addition to her regular high school coursework.

The 17-year-old is going through nursing assistant classes through Fox Valley Technical College that will give her the skills she needs to land a job after she finishes her high school studies. For Martinez, that means she won’t have to take food and drink orders while working her way through college.

“I can see myself working as a CNA as I work through my (general studies),” she said.

Martinez is one of six students from the Oshkosh school district’s Riverside Program, which allows students to earn a high school diploma in an alternative high school setting. Martinez and three others are involved in the nursing assistant program. Two other students are taking welding classes.


From “LTC-Manitowoc gateway for high school diplomas, associate degrees” – MANITOWOC — Until three weeks ago Steve Senovich’s three adult children didn’t know their father had dropped out of Mishicot High School after 11th grade.

“Now, that I’m going back to school they’re happy for me,” said Senovich, 52, who works in shipping for ThermoFisher Scientific in Two Rivers.

He has 34 years of seniority — laid off just one day in his career — but figures when the company’s steel plant shuts down by year-end his job at the downtown wood plant may be in jeopardy.

“These decimals and fractions some of them I can catch on pretty quick but other parts I can get confused,” said Senovich, in the learning lab at Lakeshore Technical College-Manitowoc, as he studies for his HSED (High School Equivalency Diploma).

Senovich and several hundred other LTC-Manitowoc students may earn dozens of different professional certificates or even associate degrees.

They may never have to leave Manitowoc for the primary campus in Cleveland, studying with instructors and other adult learners in the classrooms at the Manitowoc Job Center, 3733 Dewey St., which LTC has used since 1997.


From “MATC celebrates 100 years, embarks on building boom” – Over the past 100 years, it’s had seven names and multiple homes and expanded from 63 to more than 16,000 students.

On Wednesday, Madison Area Technical College officials marked the college’s centennial while also looking ahead to the next 100 years.

The celebration — “Honoring the past. Imagining the future.” — included a ceremonial groundbreaking on $134 million in new building projects approved by voters last fall.

“From the very beginning, we were there to give higher education with the idea of (finding) jobs for anyone,” said MATC President Bettsey Barhorst. “All were welcome. And we do the same thing today.”

The college had humble beginnings. In 1912, 63 students crammed in a single room above a fire station on South Webster Street to take the area’s first vocational classes from what was then called Madison Industrial School. Popular courses were hat making, typesetting and stenography.

The college is now set to embark on its biggest building boom since the 1970s.

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From “WITC receives adult education grant” – Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is one of the 16 Wisconsin Technical Colleges that has been awarded a $200,000 grant from several national foundations seeking to transform the way underprepared individuals get access to adult education. The grant is part of the Accelerating Opportunity, a Breaking Through Initiative project to redesign adult basic education and postsecondary programs to integrate basic skills with practical, occupational training required in today’s job market.

Managed by Boston-based Jobs for the Future (JFF), Accelerating Opportunity is working with 10 other states that have been selected to develop plans for this initiative. In November, five of the states will be selected to receive additional grants of $1.6 million each to implement their plans over a three-year period. The end goal is enhancing education delivery for adult learners so more individuals can achieve their career aspirations.

“Building from our previous work with Breaking Through, states will get the opportunity to identify the barriers to success for their residents and design a plan that will address the unique needs of their workforce and communities,” said Maria Flynn, JFF vice-president.

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From “Fox Valley Technical College exemplifies lifelong learning” – GRAND CHUTE — Fox Valley Technical College director of student life Vicky Barke was an 18-year-old high school graduate from Antigo when her father drove her to her first classes at FVTC.

Barke has seen the student body — more than 52,000 people — expand and diversify over the course of her 37 years as an FVTC employee. The college is celebrating its centennial this year.

“The composition of our student body has changed, but what we’ve become is a very strong community that addresses the different populations of individuals who come here and have a real need,” said Barke, of Appleton. “Our doors are open for everyone.”

FVTC students run the gamut from high schoolers taking college-credit courses to senior citizens pursuing high school diplomas or noncredit personal enrichment classes.

“Regardless of where you are in your student life, we have a place for you,” Barke said.

“What I’ve seen, really, is lifelong learning,” she said. “I have worked with students where they’ve come here right out of high school and in their early 20s, they’ve gone into the workforce and because of the economy or things that happen in their lives, they return, and I get to reconnect with them at different stages in their lives. That, to me, is very rewarding.”

In FVTC’s five-county district, 23 percent of high school students attend the college directly after graduation to start their careers. Nontraditional students typically enter FVTC to continue their education after a delay, to change careers or to receive workplace training.

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