From “BTC: Either cuts or $4M referendum” – by Hillary Gavan – A $4 million referendum for Blackhawk Technical Colleges (BTC) annual budget would enable the college to offer more career pathways to job seekers and more skilled workers for businesses looking to hire, according to BTC President Tom Eckert, Vice President of Finance & Operations Renea Ranguette and Foundation and Alumni Association Director Kelli Cameron.

In a recent interview, BTC officials explained how enrollment has increased while state funds have been cut causing an estimated annual budget shortfall of $3.5 million. The voters have a choice to either move forward with a referendum or reduce programs and services.

“Our only other option is to shrink,” Ranguette said.

The proposed referendum would mean a tax increase of $37 for a home with an assessed value of $100,000, translating to $3.08 per month. The board would have to approve the potential referendum by the Jan. 16 board meeting in order to get it on the ballot for the April 1 election.

In 2009, Eckert said enrollment increased 54 percent at BTC when General Motors (GM) closed. During the years that followed BTC increased certain programs to meet student needs while making a total of $3.2 million in cuts to services, programs and personnel.

“It was a combination of offering more of the right programs our community needed while making reductions to those that weren’t in high demand,” Cameron said.

Now, in 2013, enrollment remains relatively high as state funding has been cut. For example, the 2011-13 state budget reduced Wisconsin Technical College System aid by 30 percent, reducing state aid to BTC by $1.5 million. And the local operating property tax levy was frozen in 2010.

“Our increased enrollment was bigger and longer than we thought,” Eckert said.

Eckert also noted that there still are many part-time students enrolled at BTC who may be under-employed and are trying to gain more skills as the economy still recovers.

During the time of the enrollment boon, Eckert said many positive changes were made to better address the educational needs of students and employers, which BTC hopes to continue. For example, during its increase BTC implemented more comprehensive student services such as tutoring, advising and career counseling.

“We thought they were key things to students staying in school, and things employers told us they needed,” Eckert said.

An example of an expanded program is welding, which now is offered from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily and on Saturday to push out welders as quickly as possible due to a welder shortage.

BTC officials also want to keep their focus on health occupational offerings as well including a pharmacy technician program.

Although some programs and services have been increased, Eckert stressed how BTC has scaled back other programs. Employees have increased their benefit contributions and personnel have been reduced. For example, about 30 employees brought on via two-year contracts during the enrollment increase were not kept on board.

However, there are more staff overall since 2007 to support additional student services. Eckert noted about 80 percent of the operational budget is for staff salary and benefits.

The following are examples of operational savings: closed aviation program, $370,000; reduced the size of the electrical power distribution program, eliminated leadership program, and office systems tech position, $270,000; closed day care center, $72,000; increased employee contribution to Wisconsin Retirement System, $1 million; made personnel changes through attrition, $372,000; and cuts to operational accounts and activities, $169,000.

Historically, Eckert said BTC has received less local revenue on a per-student basis than all other small technical colleges in the state. BTC has 2,774 full time equivalent (FTE) students, second only to Moraine Park and Wisconsin Indianhead in its peer group of small technical colleges. However, BTC is eighth in its operational costs per FTE at only $11,745, compared to the average of about $14,000 among its peers.

“Even thought its the third largest among its peers, it charges the least per student,” Eckert said.

He added that the state sets the amount of tuition BTC can charge prohibiting the college from generating additional funds that way.

The Blackhawk Technical College Foundation has sent out surveys via mail and e-mail to more than 12,000 residents in Rock and Green counties to gauge community support for a potential referendum. On Dec. 19 the company conducting the surveys — School Perceptions — will present findings to the BTC Board in an open forum at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at the Central Campus’s administration building.

Eckert maintains it’s critical for BTC to continue its current programming to keep the local economy strong.

“We are a player in attracting businesses,” Eckert said.

He said for every tax dollar spent, communities get about $1.40 back in terms of what students spend. However, some figures put the figure as high as $14 back because of a higher educated populace which leads to a better healthcare, lower crime rats and less reliance on local taxing sources.

From “Economic impact $80 million WTC plan could have locally” – Wisconsin Technical College is asking for an almost $80 million bond to enhance facilities and curriculum.

Before taxpayers vote this November, the college had a consulting group look at the economic impact if the number of Western graduates were to increase.

Thursday, Northstar Consulting Group revealed their findings.

All results apply to the year 2020.

Experts said in that time, an additional 300 graduates each year will stay and work in the Western district.

They said this will add more than $6 million to the local economy, which will rise to $97 million by 2034.

“We’re confident we can meet the goal if we can do these things, if we have the community’s support,” said Lee Rasch, president of WTC. “And then we’re also confident that the community’s gonna benefit because the increased wages are going to go back and help the regional economy.”

The community can vote on the plan Nov. 6.

From “Mid-State owns mall property, can proceed with construction” — The former Penney’s wing on the west side of Centerpoint Marketplace has officially been sold. Mid State Technical College and the City of Stevens Point’s Community Development Authority completed the deal Wednesday.

MSTC Dean of the Stevens Point Campus Steve Smith says when the renovations and construction is complete, the college will have almost 35 percent more space than their present building, going from 36,000 square feet to nearly 55,000 square feet.  He says the first step in construction is to create an east wall where the mall used to be, which will be done before the snow flies. Smith says the college will now be able to proceed with an aggressive construction schedule, as they aim to occupy their new campus home by January of 2014.

There are presently 28-hundred students attending the Stevens Point campus, which is at capacity and has no room for expansion. The new location will allow for additional students, programs, parking, and give them room to expand in the future if necessary.

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 “Western Technical College to ask area voters for $79.8 million” — Western Technical College officials will ask voters to approve a $79.8 million referendum in November to help pay for future building projects.

College officials approved a measure Monday that will put the referendum on the general election ballot for voters in 11 western Wisconsin counties to consider. The extra money would be a key part of the college’s strategic plan to add students, become more efficient and improve the pathway between classroom and workplace, Western President Lee Rasch said.

“How do we serve more people when we don’t have operating dollars?” Rasch said. “This is our overall strategy.”

The referendum would allow Western to issue bonds for more funding, even as the college loses money to tightened state budgets. Western eliminated jobs and programs last year to compensate for about $2.3 million in state budget  cuts.

“The reality is the funding isn’t falling there,” Rasch said.

Here’s how the referendum would work:

If passed on the Nov. 6 ballot, property owners would see a tax increase — $3.25 monthly for a $100,000 home, or $39 a year.

Money from bonds would help foot the bill for six building projects, including an addition and remodeling of the technology center and renovations of the Coleman and Kumm centers. A new parking ramp also would be funded by the referendum, along with a greenhouse and an expanded space for the college’s diesel training program.

Construction would start in June 2013, officials say.

Adding two floors to Western’s technology building would make the structure a flagship for the college, Rasch said. The project’s $32.6 million price tag would pay for an energy-efficient facility with learning spaces that mimic the workplace. The new building would be large enough to house technology classes under one roof.

The $26.5 million remodeling of Coleman would give the outdated building newer classrooms for general instruction, Rasch said. Coleman was built in 1923 and last remodeled in 1971. The new Coleman would be safer and more energy-efficient, officials say.

While the ground level of Kumm has an updated kitchen and dining area, the upper floors would be renovated with $10.1 million for health and science classes.

“The buildings are old and the ways of education are changing,” Sally Lister, a Western board member who voted in favor of the referendum. “We’ll be able to make better use of the space that we have.”

Western’s strategic plan calls for more than new buildings. By 2020, officials hope to add 1,000 students, cut energy costs with efficiency projects and make programs more flexible to better meet the skill-training needs of students and employers.

The referendum would allow Western to grow in the face of budget cuts, officials say.

“This is the only way we can upgrade buildings on campus,” Lister said.

Rasch said the referendum could have a significant impact on the local economy as Western improves its ability to train a contemporary workforce.

“We’re not suggesting to wait for someone else to solve this,” he said. “We can do this on our own.”

Western officials will still follow the strategic plan if voters nix the referendum, but it will be hard to do with no projected increases in state funding, Rasch said.

“Then we just have a much steeper hill to climb,” Rasch said. “We realize that what we’re really asking for is the voter support on the facilities, but we’re asking them to consider it in light of the total plan.”

From “CVTC board approves budget; notes enrollment decline” — After rising enrollment peaked in 2010-11 at Chippewa Valley Technical College, student numbers are declining even as area employers see growing need for trained workers.

Technical colleges in Wisconsin noticed rising numbers around 2008 during the recession as people lost their jobs, said Margaret Dickens, CVTC’s director of planning, research and grants.

This is what CVTC leaders referred to the “workforce paradox” — continued high unemployment, but not enough trained workers to fill high-demand jobs in skilled manufacturing.

“We have people out of work, but we have jobs waiting,” Barker said.

Training offered

In the 2012-13 CVTC budget approved 8-0 Thursday night by the college board, there are a couple of initiatives meant to address that demand.

The budget expands manufacturing programs to train high-tech workers in that sector, Barker said. The number of seats in a diesel trucking program also is going up because of one of the region’s other fast-growing industries.

“That’s a direct effect of the sand mining industry,” Barker said.

And as they’re seeing a decline in the number of high school graduates, the college wants to court people 35 and older who want to take classes.

“We have to reach out to the adult learners as well as we do the high school graduates,” Barker said.

CVTC’s strategy to boost older adult enrollment is to offer more classes at night and online, award credits for previous education and compress classes so they last eight weeks instead of the standard 16 weeks.

The new budget had no increase in total taxes CVTC collects from property owners in its 11-county district, but the impact to individual homeowners may vary.

The owner of a $100,000 home who paid $174.17 in taxes last year to CVTC will see a $2.65 tax increase under the new budget. But that’s assuming the property value of the hypothetical home did not decrease, and many did in the region.

The new budget also includes spending for a new Energy Education Center on CVTC’s West Campus, but that project still needs about $1 million in private donations and state approval.

“There was a bubble from the unemployment,” she said.

Enrollment reached an all-time record in 2010-11 at 4,720 full-time equivalent students. But it fell to 4,469 in the academic year that just ended, and the college expects it to stay level for 2012-13.

Reasons for drop

CVTC leaders said several factors could be contributing to the recent declining enrollment.

College President Bruce Barker said those eager to get retrained did so in the past few years.

“Those who were laid off and needed to go back to school did and are graduating,” he said.

Shifting demographics in CVTC’s 11-county area also can be playing a role.

Enrollment in western Wisconsin elementary and high schools are lower than they were in prior years, CVTC communications director Doug Olson noted.

Current third-graders are anticipated to create another “bubble” in higher education when they graduate high school, Olson said, but not as big as what CVTC saw the past couple of years.

Reduced financial aid from the government also could be preventing some students from attending, Dickens said.

As the college sees a slight drop in enrollment, it’s coming at a time when local industry demands more trained workers.

“They’re just desperate for employees,” Dickens said.

From “Rising local higher education enrollment reflects trends” — Local campuses are part of a national trend that has seen college enrollment shoot up as the economy has struggled.

For the past five years or so, 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 less than 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.”

The economy has played a significant role in the increased interest in college, because students realize they need more than a high school diploma to get a job, said Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, who has just completed a doctoral dissertation on enrollment trends.

NTC has nearly doubled in size within the past four years, enrolling 6,070 students last year in either one- or two-year programs, up from 3,149 in 2008.

Mid-State Technical College, which has facilities that include a Wisconsin Rapids campus and a center in the city of Adams, has seen a 30 percent increase in full-time students since the 2007-08 academic year, something officials said is directly correlated with the economy’s dramatic downturn.

“It is certainly in line with unemployment,” said Connie Willfahrt, vice president of Student Affairs and Information Technology at MSTC. “When the recession hit, we (saw) higher enrollment.”

The University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County reported a 16 percent increase during the previous four years, adding about 100 students. Nearly 70 percent of the members of UW-M/WC’s student body are first in their families to attend college.

“We see more students pursuing practical majors,” said Annette Hackbarth-Onson, interim assistant campus dean of Student Services at UW-M/WC. “They are looking toward a destination.”

MSTC has added more sections and hired additional part-time faculty to cope with increased demand for classes, Willfahrt said.

MSTC and NTC both see more students pursuing degrees in health programs. At NTC those programs were so popular there were waiting lists, Borowicz said, some stretching several years.

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

MSTC is seeing enrollment start to level off, something Willfahrt said can be attributed to the economy slowly recovering. However, she said MSTC doesn’t plan to pull back on faculty as the need is still great.

MSTC operates three campuses in central Wisconsin and the center in Adams. NTC operates six campuses.

From Opinion: “NTC enrollment boost a good sign for central Wisconsin” — College enrollment is up nationwide, but the increase at Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College is especially striking. The number of students enrolled in one-year or two-year programs at NTC nearly doubled between 2008 and 2011, going from 3,149 students to 6,070.

That’s a stunning number. And it likely speaks to the long-term economic health of our region.

Many factors are driving enrollment increases. Without a doubt one of these is the tough economy over the past several years, which has led displaced workers to seek more schooling and has discouraged others from trying to strike out into the job market.

But there’s more to it than that. People recognize that the economy is changing and that increasingly it’s necessary not only to extend your education beyond the high-school level but also to be prepared for lifelong learning and training.

At the same time, it’s our observation that respect for technical education programs seems to be on the rise. It’s nothing against traditional liberal education, which remains extremely valuable, to say that for many people, education in a trade or technical school program is a better fit and one that offers them strong, lifelong employment opportunities. That’s true of nursing programs, various manufacturing programs and many more.

This is a positive development, and we’re glad people see technical school as a legitimate higher-education opportunity.

Still, these trends alone would not explain the absolutely dramatic growth at the Wausau-based technical college if it weren’t for one other major factor: dynamic leadership from NTC President Lori Weyers.

The school has actively gone to employers to find out what skills they need from workers and what programs would make students a good fit for the jobs they have available. It has actively made room for alternative schedules and has set up programs across the sprawling area of its coverage.

Students benefit from that type of flexibility. They also benefit from program offerings tailored to real-world skills they’ll need in the workplace.

There is no realistic way for the economy to grow in the long term without a strong base of education. In this light, the increase in enrollment in local higher-ed programs is a very good thing.

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”Black hawk Tech sees role in expanding economy” — The local economy will rebound, expand and prosper.

To make that happen, it will need a place where workers can improve their skills for 21st century needs.

That’s the feeling at the top echelons of Blackhawk Technical College, which has a new master plan that calls for greatly expanding the school.

“We have faith in the economic growth of this region,” BTC President Tom Eckert said in a recent interview.

Blackhawk Technical College’s last expansion ended seven years ago with the completion of $17.5 million in referendum projects at the main campus in central Rock County and in Monroe.

Since then, BTC has added its Beloit Center at the Eclipse Center, recently increasing its classroom space there.

But needs have grown and are expected to continue to do so, Eckert said.

“We envision getting bigger and serving more people,” he said.

The referendum project left room for about 3,000 full- and part-time students, Eckert said. But that was before General Motors and related employers closed their doors and the national economy took a nosedive.

Enrollment increased 54 percent as workers tried to reinvent themselves, Eckert said, and even though the economy seems to be strengthening, enrollments have dropped only slightly.

Computers, health sciences, even the culinary department are crowded, Eckert said. The Monroe campus is at capacity. Prospective students are being told there’s no more room.

“When you have no place to put anybody, you have to address it,” Eckert said.

BTC officials and Strang Inc. of Madison have been working on the master plan for about two years.

Strang’s research included an assessment of buildings and grounds, collection of data on how and when rooms are used, interviews with staff and students and alignment of the plan to the college’s strategic goals, said Renea Ranguette, BTC’s vice president for finance and operations.

Strang, which was paid was paid $123,410 for the work, also wrote a five-year maintenance plan that covers projects such as replacement of roofs, parking lots, windows and various parts of the heating/cooling system.

One of the recurring themes Strang heard from staff in all divisions was a lack of general-purpose classrooms, Ranguette said.

Classroom space is at a premium, even though classes are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends.

Other areas for expansion the study identified by talking to staff and students:

– More large, tiered lecture halls, especially for general-education classes.

– More spaces for staff and students to collaborate. The ability to work in teams is said to be a key skill employers want.

– More conference/meeting rooms for the college’s frequent guests.

– More dual-purpose rooms—for example, a room with traditional seating along with computer stations.

– More lab space for health services classes with an increasing emphasis on simulating what goes on in hospitals and clinics. Health professions continue to be one of the highest-demand areas at BTC.

– More interactive training spaces for police and firefighter training.

– The library is small but used intensively. More wireless Internet access and small rooms for study groups are needed, Ranguette said.

– More space for the information technology division.

– Students are more active at BTC than at a typical commuter, two-year campus, so more student-activities space is desired.

– Student services wants a tutoring/testing center.

The five-phase plan is a big-picture look at future needs. It does not include details such as floor plans or costs, Eckert said. Rather, it sets a tone and direction.

Here’s breakdown of the plan:


Description: Build an advanced manufacturing center by remodeling 130,000 square feet in the Beloit Ironworks building, now owned by Hendricks Commercial Properties, in downtown Beloit. Move classes there from the main campus, freeing up 30,000 square feet to remodel at the central-campus building. Demolish two pole buildings—18,000 square feet—attached to the rear of the central-campus building.

Timeframe: Advanced manufacturing center work could begin before the end of this year or sometime in 2013, officials said. Students would begin taking classes there in late 2013 or sometime in 2014.



Description: Build a 56,000-square-foot health sciences building facing what is now the main entrance on the central campus. The multi-story building also would house a library. The building would simulate a hospital to make learning as realistic as possible. Once the building is complete, classes would move in, freeing up 36,000 square feet in the main building for remodeling.

Timeframe: About five years from now, although projections are uncertain this far into the future. This phase likely would require borrowing through a referendum-authorized bond issue.



Description: A 32,000-square-foot addition on the west side of the central-campus main building and a 4,000-square-foot addition to the administrative center. At about the same time, the Monroe campus would be expanded, with the oldest part of the building to be demolished, leaving 15,000 square feet built in 2005, and 54,000 square feet would be added.

Monroe would have new space for health sciences and advanced manufacturing.

Timeframe: About 10 years out.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings, built to the west and downhill from the current main campus, with no purpose specified at this time. An outdoor amphitheater between the two buildings would be dedicated to student activities. These and the buildings in Phase 5 would ensure capacity for expansion. Parking would be added along with the buildings.

Timeframe: About 20 years.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings built farther to the west.

Timeline: 50 to 70 years.

The plan assumes no more expansions at BTC’s Center for Transportation Studies on Janesville’s north side, the BTC Center at Beloit’s Eclipse Center, which recently was doubled in size, or at the aviation center at the airport.

The aviation mechanics program recently was suspended as a cost-saving measure.

The plan also assumes that a new advanced manufacturing center would be built in Beloit and that the noncredit training and customized courses that BTC sets up for local businesses would move from the central campus to a building close to some of its customers, perhaps in an industrial park.

Manufacturing center would be based in Beloit

Blackhawk Technical College plans to build one of the country’s best training facilities for manufacturing workers.

The advanced manufacturing center, as it is being called, would be in the old Beloit Corp. building now known as the Ironworks along the Rock River in downtown Beloit. Construction could start as early as later this year.

The plan is based on the belief that manufacturing will continue to be a big part of this area’s economy but that workers will need to be more highly skilled.

The ability to deliver a skilled workforce to local companies will be crucial, BTC President Tom Eckert said.

Renovations to make the 130,000-square-foot Beloit facility a reality could cost upwards of $10 million, Eckert guessed, but don’t expect Blackhawk to ask taxpayers to finance the work through a referendum.

Eckert has been discussing a public-private partnership to get the job done, which means large, private donations and grants.

Eckert said he is working with the Ironworks owner, Hendricks Development, to get an affordable lease.

Eckert said he planned to meet with Hendricks officials at the end of this month to work on fundraising.

The advanced manufacturing center would be state of the art and feature large windows into the hands-on classrooms to combat the perception that manufacturing is a mindless, dirty job, Eckert said.

The center would allow BTC to double the capacity of its welding program, Eckert said. Welders are expected to be in high demand for some time. Fabrication welding courses would be added to the curriculum.

The center also would house programs in precision machining; heating, air conditioning and ventilation; electro-mechanical/robotics; and industrial maintenance.

The facility would be built like a wheel, with various skill areas being taught in the spokes. The hub would contain a laboratory where students from the various disciplines would join to build manufacturing processes from the ground up.

The lab also could be used to develop small-scale manufacturing prototypes for local companies looking to produce new products.

From “WITC expands New Richmond campus” —  The second phase of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s expansion project is well underway in New Richmond.

The foundation was poured and walls were erected starting six weeks ago. Now the project is temporarily on hold as contractor Derrick Cos. waits for a shipment of steel to be delivered.

Officials with WITC, along with local state legislators, were on hand Monday, April 16, for an “official” groundbreaking at the local institution. Even though construction crews were already hard at work at the site, dignitaries hadn’t had a chance to applaud the start of the significant project.

WITC completed the first phase of the project in 2010 when it built an addition and remodeled part of its existing structure.

The current project plans call for the remodeling of the power equipment center, the college’s steel-sided building. Remodeling plans include stripping off the steel roof and siding, and removing the concrete floors.

The expansion portion of the project will actually take place within WITC’s current footprint, Campus Administrator Joe Huftel said. An 8,000-square-foot addition will include new classroom spaces and allow reconfiguration of existing space to accommodate a learning commons, a large general studies lecture room, and an expanded science lab.  When all is said and done, six additional instruction spaces will be created.

“This will provide us with some greatly needed extra space around here,” Huftel said. “And it will allow us to consider adding some new programs too.”

The new learning center will actually be housed on two 4,000-square-foot levels, Huftel said. Plans for the $3.2 million remodel/expansion project have been in the works for years.

The project would have been completed sooner, but technical colleges are limited to $1.5 million in new construction every two years. WITC also tries to limit it’s remodeling budget to approximately $1.5 million per year to assure it can adequately manage its debt service.

WITC is bursting at its seams, Huftel said. When the college’s satellite program opened at the Community Commons in 2011, it was the first time WITC had been able to offer a new program in five years. Now, the college’s Human Services Associate, CNA and Early Childhood programs are housed at the Community Commons.

If all goes as planned the expansion and remodeling project should be complete before classes begin in the fall.

WITC’s enrollment has grown steadily over the past few years, Huftel said, and the extra space will help the technical college meet the demand for training that businesses and students are seeking.

“If we build it, we’ll fill it,” he said of the expansion.

From “Returns show strong support for $66M FVTC referendum” — APPLETON — A $66.5 million referendum to expand and upgrade Fox Valley Technical College was headed toward approval late Tuesday.

Nearly three hours after polls closed Tuesday, FVTC President Susan May claimed the referendum a resounding success with 42,618 votes — about 68 percent — in favor and 20,156 against in unofficial partial results across nine northeastern Wisconsin counties.

“We’re just delighted,” May said to a gathering of supporters at Michiels restaurant in downtown Appleton. “We are so grateful for the support across this region. To do this right now, in these times, I think is so phenomenal. This will add to the economic growth and development of this region — there’s no question about that.”

Bill Fitzpatrick, FVTC board president and New London school superintendent, said the projects were more than adding buildings.

“It’s about building skills,” he said. “It’s about building a future for ourselves and our kids. It’s about building community.”

Officials said FVTC, the state’s busiest technical school that served more than 53,000 people in 2011, needed the comprehensive facilities improvements to address unprecedented enrollment growth and employer demand for trained, skilled workers. With a worst-case scenario tax impact of about $1 per month for the owner of a $100,000 home, officials presented it as a good investment for taxpayers.

“The great news is tomorrow we put people back to work,” said Steve Tyink, FVTC Foundation board president and vice president of business innovation for Miron Construction Co., Inc., which will be the construction manager on the projects.

About 20,000 area employees were involved in workplace training through FVTC last year, while many of the school’s programs had waiting lists due to classroom space constraints. The last major building referendum took place in 1998.

Officials said the added capacity would annually allow for another 700 degree-seeking students (about 15,000 currently) and workforce training/continuing education for about 3,500 more (about 33,000 currently).

The centerpiece project, a $34.8 million stand-alone public safety training center, will be built on leased land on the south end of the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville.

“First and foremost, it’s a great investment for the community,” said Marty Lenss, director of the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville where the largest project will take place. “Now the work really begins. We’ve got to finalize lease details and then finalize our process with the FAA. We’ll be finishing those tasks up and hopefully turning dirt here real soon.

“It helps stabilize the airport environment and continue to allow the airport to be a self-sufficient enterprise within the county budget.”

The next four largest projects are at the main campus at 1825 N. Bluemound Drive: an $11.9 million health simulation and technology center, $7.4 million student success center, $6.2 million J. J. Keller Transportation Center expansion and $3.5 million agriculture center expansion.

Also proposed are $1 million to purchase land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh, $1.4 million to buy the leased Chilton Regional Center and $300,000 to add a 2,000-square-foot classroom/lab to the existing 19,760-square-foot facility.

If the referendum does pass, officials said design work would begin immediately on all projects. By fall of 2013, officials estimate that the health simulation and technology center and the agriculture center expansion would be completed.

Expansion of the transportation center is expected to be finished by early 2014 while the student success center addition and the public safety training center should be ready for use by the fall of 2014.

The key reasons cited to support the expansion and remodeling projects were: increased demands from regional employers for skilled workers through technical education and training; unprecedented 30 percent enrollment growth over the past three years; an analysis of industry growth projections; historic low borrowing costs; and likely competitive construction bidding.

An independent economic impact study also showed that the public safety training center would provide substantial spinoff benefits for the local economy, including job creation, new spending and additional tax revenues.

The shortage of skilled workers reported by employers encouraged FVTC officials that pushing forward would be a bold step that would also help the regional economy.

The comprehensive building plan stemmed from a process that began in 2006 with research and analysis of high-demand program areas. FVTC administrators and the Board of Trustees advanced the project last October despite a sluggish economy.

FVTC’s educational reach starts with the fact that 23 percent of area high school graduates enroll directly from high school, a number that grows to 43 percent within two years. The school also boasts a roughly 90 percent employment rate within six months of graduation.

Surveys commissioned by FVTC revealed high levels of support and confidence for the education and training provided by FVTC.

The $66.525 million borrowing over 15 years at conservative interest rates (4.75 to 5.25 percent) would cost $1 a month in additional taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home, according to Robert W. Baird & Co., FVTC’s financial advisor. FVTC has an excellent credit rating and last summer received a 1.3 percent interest rate for short-term capital equipment borrowing.

From “Northcentral Technical College names 21st fastest growing community/technical colleges in nation” — Northcentral Technical College (NTC) was recognized as one of the fastest-growing community/technical colleges in the nation in a recent analysis of U.S. Department of Education data conducted by Community College Week magazine. NTC was listed No. 21 out of the nation’s top 50 “fastest growing” public two-year colleges.

“As the community’s college, Northcentral Technical College is committed to providing accessible, flexible and affordable higher education opportunities to learners throughout central Wisconsin,” said Lori Weyers, President, NTC. “To be recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing two-year institutions is a tribute to the dedicated faculty and staff that work to ensure we are a viable first step, or next step, for our learners.”

The ratings were based on a review of the enrollment of more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide. NTC has seen a 48 percent growth in enrollment since 2005-06.

“When you pair this record breaking enrollment with the fact that 87 percent of the graduates of the class of 2010 were employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation and 84 percent were doing so in the state of Wisconsin, you can see why NTC is a vital component to creating a next generation workforce in Wisconsin,” said Weyers. “We couldn’t be more proud of the impact we have on the workforce development and higher education attainment of our region and state.”

From “Friends of Fox Valley Technical College support projects” — GRAND CHUTE — Businessman Mike Weller is all in on Fox Valley Technical College’s proposal to spend $66.5 million in building improvements to deal with bulging enrollments, crowded facilities and the growing need for a skilled and trained work force.

“Demand for skilled employees in public safety, health care, transportation and agriculture is at an all-time high, and there is a strong demand for graduates,” said Weller, president of ITW Welding North America and Miller Electric Mfg.

“We need to invest in FVTC’s facilities now if we want to give the next generation of graduates — and the local businesses that need their skills as well as the college’s workplace training expertise — the competitive edge they’ll need in today’s economy,” he said.

Weller is the treasurer of Friends of FVTC, an advocacy group formed to raise awareness and public support for the April 3 building referendum. The group will kick off its TechWorks campaign on Saturday with events in the Town of Menasha and Oshkosh.

Weller, along with FVTC marketing and sales student Devan Kuether, 20, of Oshkosh, say the projects will have a positive impact on the regional economy as well.

“It’s really going to benefit not only students but the entire community,” Kuether said.

Last Tuesday, FVTC’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved two resolutions authorizing the referendum and borrowing of up to $66.5 million for seven proposed projects at the state’s busiest technical school, which served 53,000 students in 2011.

The largest of the projects is the $32.5 million public safety training center proposed for construction on 74 acres of leased land on the south end of the Outagamie County Regional Airport, Greenville.

Other projects proposed for the Grand Chute campus include an $11.9 million health simulation and technology center, $7.4 million student success center, $6.2 million transportation center expansion and $3.5 million agriculture center expansion.

The referendum package also includes borrowing $1 million to purchase land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh for future expansion, $1.4 million to buy the Chilton Regional Center that the college currently leases and $300,000 to add a classroom/lab to the Chilton facility.

Besides demand from local employers, FVTC officials have cited an unprecedented 30 percent enrollment growth the past three years, historic low borrowing costs and probable competitive construction bidding as key factors supporting the comprehensive facilities plan.

From “Fox Valley Technical College board approves $66.5M referendum” — GRAND CHUTE — Voters in nine counties will be asked April 3 to approve a $66.525 million capital facilities referendum for Fox Valley Technical College, the state’s busiest technical school.

The FVTC Board of Trustees has approved two resolutions authorizing the referendum and borrowing of up to $66.525 million for seven proposed capital facilities projects.

The largest of the projects is a $32.5 million public safety training center proposed for construction on 75 acres of leased land on the south end of the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville.

“We are sensitive to the current economic situation and its impact on the many families in this region,” said FVTC board Chairman Bill Fitzpatrick. “But we also know that this college plays a critical role in rebuilding the local economy by giving workers the skills they need for sustainable employment.”

Proposed projects at the Grand Chute campus include an $11.9 million health simulation and technology center, $7.4 million student success center, $6.2 million transportation center expansion, and $3.5 million agriculture center expansion. Also proposed are $1 million to purchase land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh, $1.4 million to buy the leased Chilton Regional Center and $300,000 to add a classroom/lab to the Chilton facility.

Growing demands from area employers for skilled workers, an unprecedented 30 percent enrollment growth the past three years, limited facilities, historic low borrowing costs and probable competitive construction bidding were key factors cited by officials to support pursuit of a comprehensive capital facilities plan.

Last year, FVTC served 53,000 individuals. “That’s more people than any other technical college in the state, more than Milwaukee, more than Madison,” Fitzpatrick said.

If voters approve the referendum, FVTC will be authorized to borrow the necessary funds over two years. The property tax impact on the owner of a $100,000 home is estimated not to exceed $12.50 annually with the $66.5 million borrowed over 15 years using conservative interest rate projections.

The referendum, FVTC’s first in 14 years, will require approval of voters in all or parts of nine counties, including Brown, Calumet, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago.

From “FVTC board authorizes $66.5 million referendum” — GRAND CHUTE – Voters in nine counties will be asked on April 3 to consider a $66.525 million capital facilities referendum for Fox Valley Technical College, the state’s busiest technical school.

The FVTC Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an initial borrowing resolution not to exceed $66.525 million and a resolution to pursue a referendum on seven capital facilities projects.

The centerpiece and largest of the seven projects is the $32.5 million public safety training center proposed for construction on 75 acres of leased land on the south end of the Outagamie County Regional Airport.

The action means that If voters approve the referendum, FVTC would be authorized to borrow the necessary funds over two years to complete the facilities projects.

“The board clearly understands the college’s attentiveness to the needs of our region’s workforce,” said FVTC board chairman Bill Fitzpatrick.

FVTC administrators and the board have done extensive studies and planned for the capital facilities projects over the past four years.

FVTC President Susan May said a community perception survey illustrated the important role that the technical college plays in training skilled professionals to fit immediate job openings and long-term careers.

“Our community and our workforce need to grow in alignment with the new skill requirements of this economy, and it certainly shaping up as a skills-based economy,” May said.

“We look forward to helping this community and this region grow the economy, career opportunities, and overall quality of life,” May said. “Putting facilities like this in play can make that kind of difference.”

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 “Local students spend Saturdays at Nicolet College” —  RHINELANDER – Area High School students are getting their feet wet in a college atmosphere.

These High School students are giving up their Saturdays for more than a month to gain some valuable training.

“The Academy helps give students, freshman and sophomore particularly, in high school a college experience. We talk about college success skills, we talk about what it’s like to be a college student. Putting in mind, so they can plan for college in their career pathways,” says Rose Prunty, Dean of University Transfer Liberal Arts & Academic Success at Nicolet College.

This Academy, formed in collaboration with the DNR and UW-Stevens Point, focuses on Science and Digital Media. They’re studying aquatic invasive species, and how to prevent them.

“We’re also studying lake turnover. Which is, the warm water and the cold water, as the seasons shift, those shift over and that brings more oxygen to the lake,” says Jacob Blodgett, from Tomahawk High School.

Rose Prunty says the course might encourage someone who wasn’t thinking about college to reconsider.

“I do think the students have gotten a good sense of what it might feel like to be in a college class, and have that idea of what it’s like to be on a college campus,” says Prunty.

Better preparing high schoolers for what lies ahead.

Nicolet College is offering two similar academies early next semester for health care and engineering. All of these programs are planned for the next school year as well.

From “FVTC eying major expansion plans” — GRAND CHUTE – An area technical college is eying major expansion plans.

Fox Valley Technical College is considering five major projects to the tune of more than $65 million.

With enrollment up 30 percent over the last three years, the school says it will soon be bursting at the seams.

“We’ve done everything that we can do to meet the demand of the public and dislocated workers coming to us to get retrained for jobs,” Chris Matheny, Vice President of Instructional Services said.

Matheny says many of the school’s facilities are at capacity. He feels the time is right for an expansion.

“Even in a down economy, 85 percent of our graduates when they leave here are getting jobs, so I think it’s really a time to ask ourselves is it worth making an investment in the future so that continued generations and continued people in the Fox Cities can have access to those services,” Matheny added.

The college wants public input on the $65 to 85 million expansion plan.


From “Green Bay-area colleges see higher enrollment, increase in adult students” — Students continue to enroll at local colleges in record numbers, although school administrators say growth has slowed since the height of the recession.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay welcomed 6,598 students this fall, according to early reports. That’s up slightly from 6,579 in 2010, and 5,791 in fall of 2006.

St. Norbert College has 2,173 undergraduates this year, one more than last fall. In 2006, the school had 2,015 undergraduates enrolled.

Meanwhile, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, which calculates numbers differently, has enrolled the equivalent of 3,900 full-time students for fall compared with about 3,963 last fall. Its calculations vary from other colleges because full-time equivalency equals 30 credits of enrollment, which means full-time students can represent several taking classes on a part-time basis.

The technical college served the equivalent of 7,561 full-time students for the entire 2010-11 school year, compared with 6,175 in 2006-07. School officials do not expect growth in full-time students this year, although they do expect growth in the actual number of students taking courses.


LTC enrollment down slightly

September 27, 2011

From “University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc sets enrollment record” — MANITOWOC — Enrollment hit a record high at the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc this fall, according to a news release from Teresa Satori, senior university relations specialist at the campus.

A total of 664 students were enrolled on Sept. 19, which is the official tally day for schools in the University of Wisconsin system. That’s an increase of 8.5 percent from last year’s 612 students, according to the news release. The next highest enrollment was 648 students in 2001.

Thirty-eight percent of this year’s students are attending part time, putting the full-time equivalent at 497. That’s an increase from last year’s 471 but not a record; the record for FTEs is 532 in 2004.

“The continuing growth of UW-Manitowoc reflects a national trend of students seeking more flexible and affordable paths to achieving their educational goals,” Charles Clark, dean and CEO at UW-Manitowoc, said in the news release. “UW-Manitowoc represents a tremendous value. Students can get a head start on a UW education at the lowest tuition in the UW System.”


From “Things look good at technical college” — 

Northcentral Technical College in Antigo opened its doors for the 2011-12 term this week, and early signs point toward an outstanding school year.

“We’re excited,” campus director Larry Kind said.

“We’re were pretty well prepared for the term and the first few days have gone amazing well.”

Kind said that initial enrollment is up 10 percent over last year, we are on track to serve between 280 and 290 full-time equivalent students this year.

“By the end of the year we may be up over 300 if the trend holds,” Kind said.

And since the vast majority of students are part-time, taking only a handful of classes rather than a full load, Kind said those numbers translate to “several thousand people” taking advantage of higher education on a local level.

The school is unveiling several new programs for fall, including classes in computer technology, general education and human services, but much of the buzz revolves around the wood technology center, which is fully operating after years of planning, curriculum development and construction.

“It is obviously our showcase program.” Kind said. “We have 15 to 16 students right now and a lot more in the pipeline, waiting for the opportunity to join.

Read more from

From “WITC proposes second phase of expansion, renovation” — Just a year removed from completion of a major renovation and expansion project, the New Richmond campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is gearing up for another round of construction.

The WITC board of directors has unanimously approved a $1.5 million renovation project at New Richmond’s Power Equipment Center, a $1.5 million classroom expansion of the main campus building and a $1 million renovation of existing commons space for 2012.

According to Campus Administrator Joe Huftel, the local plan now awaits final approval from the Wisconsin Technical Colleges board of directors. He expects that approval to come within the next 45 days.

“There are high levels of oversight to make sure we’re not overbuilding,” Huftel explained. “But this really is a no-brainer for us.”

If approval happens, WITC officials hope to start seeking construction bids by January, with construction to start in the spring of 2012. The hope is to have the expansion and renovations completed for occupancy in the fall of 2012.


From “BTC students seek new future” — 

Dwight Miller Sr. wants to travel to Ireland and become a famous chef. Jessica Garvin is studying legal administration in hopes of landing a job at the Rock County Sheriff’s Department.

Both are enrolled at Blackhawk Technical College, where more than 12,000 full and part-time students resumed classes this week. Blackhawk has six campuses scattered between Beloit, Janesville and Monroe with the main location right off of Highway 51 about half way between the Beloit and Janesville.

Miller, a 57-year-old Beloit native, said he began his training in the college’s culinary arts program at the beginning of 2011. He’ll be done in another year. But before graduation, he hopes to utilize the school’s study abroad offerings to work under a professional chef in Ireland.

“It’s been tremendous,” he said of the instructors and classes.

Before Blackhawk, Miller had spent much of his working career laboring long, tough hours in area factories. He hopes his degree will help him land a job where he can express himself and enjoy work every day.

“You can be creative in this field,” he said, noting there is no age limit for a chef. “You can cook forever.”

As for Garvin, who initially did not pursue further learning after graduating from Janesville Craig High School in 2008, simply being back in an academic environment makes her happy.

Read more from

From “State Sees Higher ACT Scores” — As kids prepare to go back to school, the state gets good news about its average ACT scores.

Students across Wisconsin are testing higher on the college prep exam, raising the state average score from 21.1 to 22.2 out of 36.

Nicolet College Admissions Director Susan Kordula says she’s seen how the test can help.

“We have seen an upturn in the students who are academically prepared coming to Nicolet, which is always a good thing,” Kordula said.

“It’s very important for the students, especially coming right out of high school as well as our adults students, to be ready to hit the ground running and have those skills that they need to be successful in college.”

71 percent of Wisconsin students who graduated from high school took the test in 2010.

And though Nicolet doesn’t require students to take the exam, Kordula recommends they do.

“If they take it as a junior, they can realize that maybe if the score isn’t as high as they’d like to see that they might want to take more rigorous classes as they get into their senior year to be ready,” Kordula said.

“So in some cases it’s a wake up call for students and others it’s just a verification that their skills are where they need to be.”

Of the 27 states where at least half the students took the test, Wisconsin’s score ranks third behind Minnesota and Iowa. 


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