From “New president wants community to see MATC’s evolution” — Vicki Martin had a front-row seat as Milwaukee Area Technical College evolved from preparing young people for the trades to taking on the additional role of helping working adults reinvent themselves in a tumultuous economy.

But she’s not sure the community fully realizes the scope of that change.

The Milwaukee native and longtime administrator, whose first day as president was Wednesday, said one of her main goals is to change that.

“We hear a lot about how we’re the best-kept secret,” said Martin, who was MATC’s provost — chief academic officer — before being promoted to president eight days ago. “This institution is so important for so many people, and just about everyone in the community has been touched by an MATC graduate.”

MATC has 200 academic programs, nearly 400 transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees, and a Pre-College Education division that helps adults complete high school, prepare for college or enter the workforce. The college has a full-time equivalent enrollment of about 13,000 students at its four campuses. It serves a total of 43,000 students including community education, workforce training, and customized business training and workshops.

Managing enrollment will be key.

Community colleges saw a 5.9% dip in enrollment of students over the age of 24, more than double their overall decline, between spring 2012 and 2013, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. MATC has seen its own declines; enrollment booms — like the 10% increase MATC saw at the peak of the recession — typically taper off as the economy rebounds.

But managing the way the community perceives the school also will be critical.

From “Mid-State enrollment projected to increase for first time in 3 years” — GRAND RAPIDS — After three years of steadily declining enrollment, Mid-State Technical College’s student body is slowly ticking upward.

This upcoming academic year will be the first time the college has projected an increase in student body population since the 2010-11 year. The school expects enrollment will rise 3.5 percent to 2,144 full-time equivalent students in 2014-15 from 2,070 in 2013-14.

Vice President of Student Affairs Mandy Lang attributed this year’s increase in students to the opening of the new Stevens Point campus and its new and expanded course offerings. She said the three-year enrollment decline was due to the economy.

“When the economy gets better, there can be a drop in enrollment for colleges,” Lang said.

After the recession hit in 2008 and layoffs became more common in central Wisconsin, MSTC saw enrollment increase as dislocated workers decided to return to school and acquire new skills. Government funding for dislocated worker training also increased during this time, Lang said. However, as the effects of the recession mitigated, the school’s numbers steadily declined from 2011 to 2014.

Still, these trends in enrollment are not unique to MSTC. According to the Wisconsin Technical College System’s 2011-13 Biennial Report, all Wisconsin technical colleges saw a decrease in full-time equivalent students from the 2009-10 academic school year to the 2011-12 year. Across the technical college system, there was a 3.9 percent drop in enrollment from 2009-10 to 2011-12, totaling a decrease of 3,175 students.

Conor Smyth, director of strategic partnerships and external relations at WTCS, said enrollment rates in the state’s technical colleges were the highest in the system’s history during the recession. The tendency for people to return to college during times of economic hardship is a historic trend, he said. Likewise, when the economy gets better, people tend to go back to work. This phenomena, he said, explains the subsequent decline in enrollment.

“There’s a preference for work and earning money,” Smyth said.

Katie Felch, director of public relations and marketing at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, also noted the economy’s role in determining enrollment at NTC. Since 2006-07, Felch said NTC’s enrollment increased by 50 percent and in 2012, it was recognized as the 21st fastest-growing community college in the nation by Community College Week. This past May, NTC graduated its largest class ever.

This year, NTC’s enrollment is down 8 percent, but Felch expects it to rebound.

“We saw a big bubble due to dislocated workers,” Felch said.

However, the recession isn’t the only factor influencing enrollment. MSTC’s pool of potential students is much smaller because of its district’s demographics.

According to MSTC’s calculations in its 2014-15 budget, residents in the school’s district are significantly older than the national average. Compared to the national average, there are 16 percent more people per capita who are older than 50. Combine this with the fact that MSTC’s district has only grown 1 percent in population since 2001 and it puts MSTC at a notable disadvantage in enrolling students. For context, Wisconsin’s population has grown 7 percent and the U.S.’s has grown 11 percent since 2001.

Another cause for concern in technical college enrollment is the diminishing number of students in high school. Smyth said the total number of high school graduates is expected to decrease in the next decade and with fewer students enrolled in high school, it is likely to impact enrollment at all colleges.

However, the technical colleges are especially starting to notice.

“There are just fewer students in the pipeline,” Felch said. “So we’re working to attract those students.”

But, as Smyth said, recruitment for students is especially hard for technical colleges because of their constant battle with a “four-year bias.” High school students, in particular, might feel more pressured by their peers, parents and school counselors to enroll in a four-year university even though their academic interest might be better aligned with a technical college.

Still, Smyth admits that breaking this bias is especially hard.

“We’re trying to get people to think along the lines of, ‘What do you want to do?’ rather than, ‘Where do you want to go?’” Smyth said.

In addition, student financial aid is growing harder to attain because of government regulations, further hindering student enrollment. Although technical colleges might be more affordable than a four-year university, Smyth said the number of students eligible for state-funded, need-based financial aid far outpaces the sufficient funds available to them.

At MSTC, Lang said the declining accessibility of financial aid is impacting the number of students it enrolls.

“It has been a factor (in enrollment) over the past few years,” Lang said about financial aid. “Those regulations do continue to tighten.”

Lang said MSTC anticipates a “moderate growth” in student body population during the next few years but would not speak to whether maintaining a steadily increasing enrollment was a high priority for MSTC. Instead, she emphasized student success as one of MSTC’s largest priorities.

From “NTC’s Agriculture Center continues to grow” — WAUSAU — Enrollment at Northcentral Technical College’s Agriculture Center of Excellence has more than tripled since the academy opened about three years ago and though the farm part of the center still is losing money, administrators are confident that soon will change.

In 2009, the Marathon County Board voted to give NTC $1 million to help start the center, a farm-based learning laboratory in the town of Maine. NTC’s initial investment was $164,338, according to NTC marketing & public relations director Katie Felch.

Two years later, students started using the facility, with 31 signing up for one of the two available associate degree programs: dairy science and agribusiness.

In the 2013-14 academic year, 107 students were enrolled in an expanded selection of four programs taught at the center. Veterinary science, an associate degree program, and agriculture equipment technician, which offers a technical diploma, recently were added to the course offerings.

In 2013, 12 students graduated from the dairy science program, according to figures provided by the college. Of those, 11 responded to a follow-up survey, with two listing “farm owner” or “family farm owner” as their occupations.

That means the program isn’t churning out graduates who take over or start their own family farms, but NTC leaders said the students being educated at the academy are contributing to central Wisconsin’s farming economy in myriad other ways.

By the numbers

From a budgetary standpoint, the Agriculture Center is split into two components; the instructional budget, which includes expenses such as instructional pay, supplies, printing costs and minor equipment; and the farm operations budget, which includes revenue from crops, milk, calves and cows and expenses including seed, fertilizer, livestock, fuel and repairs.

The instructional budget is a fixed cost for the college, but the farm operations spending plan can be affected by a variety of factors, including weather and milk prices, said NTC president Lori Weyers.

The farm has been operating in the red since it opened, losing about $24,000 in fiscal year 2013 and with losses projected to be about $5,000 in the current fiscal year, according to figures provided by the college.

While that might not be ideal, Weyers said it’s not unexpected.

“We said we had a five-year budget plan we were working toward to get to be cost-neutral,” Weyers said. “But it is very dependent on milk prices and how we do with the crops, if we have a good growing season, because then we don’t have to buy as much feed for the cows.”

Weyers said learning to cope with weather’s whims and fluctuating milk prices is a good lesson for students preparing for lives as farmers.

“We’re dependent on the weather, we’re dependent on milk prices, so our students need to understand this — that if they go into this field they’re going to be very much dependent on what happens with their crops and what happens with their milk prices,” she said. “It’s real life, it’s real-world living, and so that was our goal.”

The center lost about $85,000 in fiscal year 2012, but Felch said that figure doesn’t reflect a fully operational year; its herd still was growing and the center had yet to secure the annual milk-purchase contract it now has with Mullins Cheese.

The herd took time to build, said Vicky Pietz, NTC dean of agricultural sciences.

“We have over 100 animals now; we can have up to 110 on the property for the zoning,” Pietz said. “We started off with a smaller herd so it takes time for your cows to come up through the milking lines.”

Ag Center graduates

Of the 12 students who graduated from the dairy science program in 2013, 11 responded to a six-month follow-up survey from the college. Two of them reported owning farms — one a family farm — and others held jobs such as property manager, farm technician and farm hand.

Weyers said the industry is trending toward large farm operations and away from smaller family farms, so it’s not atypical for those entering the ag business to get jobs as farm managers instead of farm owners.

“The research says that larger farms are coming in and the smaller dairy farms of the ’60s and ’70s is no longer going to be the case,” Weyers said. “It’s tough to make a living when you’re talking about 40 or 60 cows, you’re going to have to have an outside job. … So either the wife works outside the home or somebody does.

“But then you’re seeing these 2,000-herd farms, the large operations, and they need a lot — they need a herdsman, they need somebody in charge of the crops, and that’s where our graduates are going.”

Brian Brendemuehl of Merrill, who graduated in May from the dairy science program, said he and his classmates got both a degree and real-world experience at the academy — a valuable combination when it comes to landing a job.

“It gives you credentials going into somebody’s farm; credentials that you were on a working farm with animals,” Brendemuehl said. “A lot of people will hire upon experience and you also have a degree, so if you have both, you have a leg up on the competition.”

The 30-year-old said the best part of the program was the hands-on learning.

“It gives you a perspective with the cow being there, it’s not all done by simulators,” Brendemuehl said. “You actually can see how things act and how the cows react to what the students are doing with the cows, so it gives you something to expect out in the real world and some perspective of how it’s going to happen.”

Growing a farm

The center, which sits on 110 acres on Highway K in the town of Maine, was developed in partnership with the Dairyland State Academy, a consortium of agribusiness advocates that helped raise money to make the facility a reality. In March 2009, the Marathon County Board voted 29-7 to spend $1 million to develop the center.

Then-county board chairman Keith Langenhahn was one of the yes votes.

“When we took the vote, the flavor of the (county) board was that agriculture is very important in Marathon County and with the average age of the producer at 57 or 58 at that time, we thought it was important to have young people trained to take over the industry and retain the agriculture base in Marathon County,” Langenhahn said.

The center includes a cow barn, calf and heifer barn, robotic milker, parlor and a “green” classroom that has the capacity to seat 32 students. The calf and heifer barn has the capacity to house 40 to 50 animals and the freestall barn has 50 stalls. The main building is equipped with a milking parlor and a Lely robotic milking machine.

The farm includes 83 acres of tillable land planted in a variety of crops — peas, oats, alfalfa, red clover, grass and corn. Through an agreement with Case IH, students are able to use the latest agricultural equipment and precision farming technology.

A farm operations manager oversees the center and is helped by two assistant managers, Pietz said. Two full-time instructors and some adjuncts round out the staffing.

Selling the center

The center is marketed in a variety of ways, Felch said, from career coaches promoting it in the high schools, to getting the word out at events such as the state fair, this month’s dairy breakfasts and organizations such as the FFA.

Felch said farm staffers also give frequent tours and hold high school-geared events where students can see the farm firsthand.

“That’s really what sells them,” Felch said. “That’s the great thing about the Ag Center of Excellence is that it’s that learning laboratory, you have that hands-on opportunity, you’re not just learning in the classroom, you’re actually seeing first hand all those experiences.”

In addition to its efforts to present the center in a good light, Pietz said the college wants to put a good face forward for the agriculture industry.

“We work really hard to make sure the place looks nice, looks clean, stays looking new, so that when folks do come in and tour they leave feeling great,” Pietz said. “They’ve had a good tour, they’ve had a good experience.”

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 “MATC’s Walleser nabs enrollment award” — Diane Walleser, vice president of enrollment at Madison Area Technical College, was honored last week by a national association for her work promoting strategic enrollment management.

At the ceremony in Chicago, Walleser was touted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers for leadership that has led to significant growth in student applications and enrollment since she started in 2005. It also noted an 85 percent increase in students in the college’s liberal arts transfer program during her tenure.

“A new academic pathway model was developed to improve retention and completion rates and shorten time-to-completion,” the association noted. “Academic and peer advisors have been hired and orientation services redesigned to intentionally support student retention and success.”



From “Trailer will bring Nicolet College to area communities” —  The Nicolet Area Technical College district covers more than 4,000 square miles so for those living in the district it may not be easy to get to the main campus located just outside of Rhinelander for certain services.

The college has moved to remedy this with a new trailer that will be taken around to area communities to bring the school to prospective students.

“We can really do anything in the trailer that we can do in our office,” Kenneth Urban, Nicolet vice president of teaching, learning and student success, said. “The only thing we can’t do is testing. But financial aid, registration, we can do that in this trailer.”

Urban was one of the leading figures in trying to find a way the college could reach all corners of the district.

“Our district is 80 percent the size of Connecticut so we have a big area to cover,” Urban said. “It is not easy for people to sometimes get the services they need by coming to the main campus.”

The idea to bring those services to the district via trailer was the logical next step so the college began looking for a suitable vehicle.

Fortunately, they did not have to look far.

“Luckily the Wisconsin Technical College System Foundation is the organization that handles federal property in Wisconsin,” Urban said. “They had a FEMA trailer sitting in their lot in Waunakee.”

The trailer, Urban said, was just a typical camping trailer so the college needed to put work into it to make it a mobile extension of the college.

Again, the school did not have far to go to find qualified help.

“We have some very talented students and staff at this school,” Urban said.

Students and staff went to work on gutting the trailer and putting in the equipment and finishes needed to make the trailer function like the home office.

They removed the bathroom and made that they technology hub and electrical hub that feeds the two computer work stations in the area. They turned a couch into a work surface and installed an oak table with the college’s oak leaf logo.

On the outside, of the trailer, the students modified the main side window and inside built a storage case that houses a flat panel television, one of two in the unit.

“The idea is that you would pull up to where you are going to set up, you put the awing down and set up a table in front and have the television playing behind you with information,” Urban said. “We can customize the message to whatever we are doing that day. If we are there for financial aid sign up, we can have a video about financial aid playing. Or if it is a general visit, we can have a video of information about the school playing.”

Urban said the idea is to have at least two school representatives with the trailer when it goes to events in communities to help people with their needs. But he adds the college is still experimenting on how it best works in the real world.

“It has been out on one official event and that was Rediculous Dae in Rhinelander,” he said. “People really liked it. We learned thought that we need paper weights for the papers on the table outside. But that is where we are at right now, we are experimenting to see what we need and how the trailer works best.”

The trailer will be used for two more events this year though those dates have not been finalized but Urban said he is excited to get the unit out in the public.

“We want to take it where the people that will use the college the most will be,” he said. “We will stay away from tourist events, but you will see this trailer at high school football games where a couple of schools in our district are playing each other or other events where people that use the college will be.”

From “In child care evolution, ramifications for everyone” — By Doug Erickson – After Wisconsin started rating child care centers a couple of years ago, Stacy Reinacher knew how the phone calls from prospective customers were going to go.

Her small, in-home center in Madison earned just two stars out of five — the most common rating and nothing to be ashamed of, yet disappointing to some parents.

“You’d say two stars, and they’d be like, ‘Really, that’s it?’ And then you wouldn’t hear from them again,” said Reinacher, 37, who operates Stacy’s Quality Daycare.

What tripped up Reinacher was the same thing keeping so many providers from getting higher ratings: a lack of college credits. The rating system, called YoungStar, puts a premium on educational attainment. Centers are stuck at a two-star rating unless at least some of their workers get college-credit-based training.

That’s sent hundreds of child care workers, including Reinacher, back to college — or to college for the first time.

It’s not an easy proposition. Caring for children is exhausting work, and turnover is high in the field. Then there’s the financial aspect.

“These folks aren’t making much money — the average is about $11 an hour,” said Dave Edie, who led the state’s child care office for years. “The question becomes, ‘Why should I get a degree and continue to make $11 an hour?’”

The state is trying to address these barriers, particularly through a popular scholarship program.

Some child care workers welcome this move toward college training, saying it will professionalize the field and finally put to rest the “baby sitter” label. Others, especially veteran providers with decades of experience, say the emphasis on college training is misplaced, even insulting.

Regardless, YoungStar has triggered a fundamental shift in child care in the state.

“I’ve often told my employees that there will come a day when you won’t be able to work in this field without having at least some college training,” said Sharlot Bogart, owner of Teddy’s Place in Sun Prairie and a child care provider for more than 40 years. “That day is coming very soon.”

Four key areas

The YoungStar system rates centers from one to five stars, although two stars is really the practical base. (One-star centers don’t meet basic health and safety standards and usually are in the process of being shut down.)

A center gets rated in four key areas: staff educational qualifications; learning environment; the professionalism of business practices; and the approach to child health and wellness.

Of the 4,571 child care centers that have been rated through YoungStar, the biggest chunk by far, 2,910 or 64 percent, earned two stars. That means they meet all state health and safety standards.

State officials always said most centers would get two stars, at least initially. That’s because the state’s previous approach to licensing focused on health and safety. YoungStar pushes a center to think much more about its early learning curriculum — and whether it has the qualified staff to teach it.

“The better trained the staff members are, the more knowledgeable they are about the stages of child development, and we feel that’s crucial,” Edie said. “You can even have a fairly questionable setting, but if the teachers know how to work with kids, they can do great things.”

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, where Edie now works, recently crunched the numbers and found the greatest barrier to a center moving up to three stars is a lack of staff education.

Pride, self-improvement

Reinacher does not have a college degree. But on a recent afternoon at her in-home center, she pulled a hefty binder from a shelf and paged through the records from all of the continuing education classes she’s taken in the past decade — 192 hours’ worth.

Those non-credit classes improved her skills and helped her maintain her state license, but they didn’t help her move up the rating’s ladder. She couldn’t become a three-star center unless she earned at least 12 college credits — typically four college courses. Her competitiveness kicked in.

“I wanted to better myself,” she said. “And I didn’t want to be a two-star center like everyone else.”

So 18 months ago, she began taking online classes through UW-Platteville, often sitting down to hours of homework after an exhausting day of caring for six children.

She earned a three-star rating a couple of months ago and is continuing to take classes in hopes of one day acquiring enough credits for a two-year associates degree, giving her a shot at an even higher rating. At her current pace, that would take another three years.

Tuition assist

The classes are sometimes a physical drain but have not been a financial one for Reinacher. To encourage education, the state offers scholarships to child care workers through a $4.7 million annual program that goes by the acronym TEACH.

The scholarships predate YoungStar, but the demand for them has increased dramatically in the last two years. It would be hard to find a government program more beloved right now.

“TEACH is doing amazing things,” said Krystle Lisk, owner of Just 4 Kidz in Cuba City, a two-star center.

She’s taking the second of six college courses she needs for her center to move up to a three-star rating. Her scholarship pays 55 percent of the tuition, plus a stipend for gas and books. Her cost per course is about $400.

The scholarships are even more helpful to employees of child care centers because the employer also ponies up some money. And once the courses are completed, the employer agrees to provide either a one-time bonus (usually around $200) or a raise of 1 to 2 percent.

For Christina Smith, 32, an employee of Play Haven Child Care in Sun Prairie, the scholarship means she pays only 20 percent of the costs, or about $150 per course at Madison Area Technical College. In return, she commits to staying with her employer for at least a year after her scholarship contract is completed.

Smith works full time, plus races to classes over lunch and at night.

“Believe it or not, I’m actually really enjoying it — I’m on the Dean’s List, I’m earning high honors — and I’m able to apply what I’m learning directly in the classroom,” she said.

She’s one of 1,089 child care workers across the state on a TEACH scholarship right now. Funding for the program is stable, and so far the program has been able to enroll all applicants who meet eligibility guidelines, said Autumn Gehri of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, which runs the program for the state.

Big motivator

There’s another big motivator in this push toward college credits. Centers that care for low-income children get more money through a state-subsidy program if they have more stars. That’s part of the state’s goal of getting more low-income children into higher-quality child care.

When YoungStar kicked in, centers rated two stars actually lost 5 percent of their state reimbursement. This was especially galling to these centers, because the overall reimbursement rate for everyone has been frozen since 2006.

“We’d done nothing wrong, yet our wages essentially were being cut,” said Jaime Steindorf, owner of centers in Columbus and Rio, both called Braids N’ Britches.

Her Columbus center initially earned two stars. Steindorf said she sat down her employees and “begged” them to consider college training. To get three stars, at least two of her four lead classroom teachers needed to each pass two college-level courses, and she needed to complete courses as well.

Five of her eight employees signed on, and the center now is a three-star. Steindorf has mixed feelings about YoungStar.

“Honestly, I have to say that the two most highly educated people I ever hired turned out to be my two least-desirable teachers,” she said. “I think education is important, but experience should count for something as well.”

Dynamic profession

This has become a common complaint among veterans in the field, said Karen Natoli, a coordinator of the early childhood education program at Madison Area Technical College. Natoli supports YoungStar but sympathizes with experienced providers who now need credit-based training.

“It’s almost insulting to them because, frankly, many of these providers are wonderful and have been doing high-quality child care for years,” Natoli said.

The state has responded by working with colleges to offer classes that grant credit for prior learning, through mechanisms such as opt-out tests, direct classroom observation and portfolios that document skills.

MATC tries to honor what these providers have done by drafting them as mentors for younger students. Yet it also stresses to these experienced providers the value of credit-based education, Natoli said.

“The brain research in just the last 10 years is so different from what I studied in college,” she said. “I feel like I’m always learning something new, and that’s the approach we’re trying to bring to this, to help make every teacher more exceptional.”


From “CVTC enrollment shrinking to pre-recession levels” — By Andrew Dowd – After the Great Recession helped boost enrollment at Chippewa Valley Technical College as unemployed workers sought retraining for new jobs, student numbers are declining as the economy has improved.

Following a peak in spring 2011, enrollment fell in the past two years, and CVTC’s new budget forecasts it will decrease slightly in the upcoming academic year.

President Bruce Barker referred to the enrollment trend as “returning to pre-recession” levels, but still higher than the college’s numbers in the early 2000s.

Enrollment spiked in spring 2008 and 2011, reaching 4,623 and 4,720 full-time equivalent students, respectively. (CVTC measures its enrollment in full-time equivalency, where one student equals a full-time student or a few part-time ones that combine to equal a 15-credit course load.) Next year’s enrollment is projected at 4,300, a slight drop from the 4,340 full-time equivalent students that attended this spring.

Smaller high school graduating classes also are figuring into the decline.

“What we’re seeing is a smaller number of high graduates that the technical college is competing for as new enrollees in higher education,” CVTC spokesman Mark Gunderman said.

High school senior classes will decline 5 percent by 2019 in the technical college’s district, according to a forecast from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Tuition is going up by 4.5 percent next year at all Wisconsin public technical colleges, but CVTC is expecting to see a 1 percent decline in its tuition revenue because of the declining enrollment.

“The individual’s cost is going up, but total revenue is down,” Barker said.

Tuition contributed $16.32 million for CVTC’s 2012-13 budget, but is expected to fall to $16.08 million next year.

Four-year universities and colleges also are coping with the same decline in graduating high school numbers, Gunderman noted. However, technical colleges have a larger proportion of nontraditional students who work full time, raise a family or both while attending college.

To that end, CVTC is enhancing its catalog of eight-week classes geared toward working students that would have a more difficult time taking a regular 16-week course.


From “Madison College-Fort welds relationship with industries” — Job seekers in Jefferson County are finding more opportunities to be trained in programs that allow them to enter the workforce quickly, thanks to the expanded Madison Area Technical College campus in Fort Atkinson.

In September, a ribbon-cutting saluted completion of a $1.9 million campus renovation and expansion that was part of the larger $134 million vision of growth within the college’s 12-county district.

Madison College’s $134 million Smart Community Plan for new facilities, renovations and upgrades at the affiliated campuses was approved by voters in the November 2010 election. The referendum received nearly 60 percent of the ballots from electors in the technical college district.

The plan called for meeting the increasing demand of local residents who need affordable education and job training during a time of struggle in the economy while Madison College’s student enrollment and waiting lists are at all-time highs, and interest rates and construction costs are low.

The Fort Atkinson project consisted of remodeling 3,000 square feet of existing space and adding 6,000 square feet of new space. The centerpiece of the expansion was the 3,000-square-foot metal fabrication/manufacturing lab.

Lynn Forseth, executive director for economic and workforce development in Madison College’s Eastern Region, said that starting with the spring semester, the Fort Atkinson campus has been able to provide degree-credit classes for the welding and industrial maintenance mechanic programs, customized contract training for area businesses and a middle college program for high school-aged students.

“It has really taken off,” Forseth said. “I do believe that what we constructed through the referendum was a good opportunity for this campus. It is serving our local industries.”

For many years, Madison College’s Fort Atkinson campus had been fortunate enough to be able to use nearby Fort Atkinson High School’s technical education lab for welding and manufacturing classes. Since 2001, evening classes were offered at the high school.

Prior to that, when the Fort Atkinson campus first was built, there was a welding lab. Over the years, the equipment and ventilation system grew old, prompting administrators to clean out that space and work with the School District of Fort Atkinson when the high school was built nearby.

However, at the high school, the Madison College courses had no room to expand and were limited to flexibility in scheduling. Another concern related to equipment maintenance.

With the addition of the 3,000-square-foot metal fabrication/manufacturing lab at Madison College’s campus, training opportunities have increased dramatically.

“All of the effort that went into providing the training needed by our industrial members is paying off,” said Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dianne Hrobsky. “The facility and the quality of the training that we are getting out of the Fort Atkinson campus is removing some of the obstacles that have impeded growth for so many businesses.”

She noted that the industrial sector is strong in this area and is vital to the community’s overall economic base.

Classes are offered at the Fort Atkinson campus in computerized numerical control, welding, oxy-fuel/plasma cutting, manual machining, programmable logic controllers and metal fabrication.

Planning sessions recently were held with various industries along the State Highway 26 corridor to determine their needs. Forseth said the top skills sought are welders, machinists, CNC operators and industrial maintenance mechanics.

“We’re serving all of those needs with this lab and we would like to continue to provide that level of instruction,” Forseth said.

Through only one semester of instruction, students who have taken classes in the new lab already have been hired by area companies. One Janesville-area company hired three of the Fort Atkinson campus’ students.

Forseth said Madison College already is looking ahead to the potential next step, which is development of a new program offering in overall metal fabrication.

Currently, the welding program is a one-year diploma program, and some students, many of whom also have a job, struggle to have the time to take all the required classes while maintaining employment.

She said schedules are designed to accommodate those working adult students as much as possible.

Generally, the jobs that are available are in more customized manufacturing.

“You need people to be able to read blueprints and make those modifications and make adjustments to meet the customers needs,” Forseth said. “We know most of the manufacturing and production is going to be customized work that requires a higher level of skill.”

From “Tech school expands to meet skills gap” — The training labs at Lakeshore Technical College have been booked solid, up to 18 hours a day, and the waiting lists are nearly 30 people deep.

“The waiting list for example, machine tool and especially our welding program, are such that we can have a program filled and before the start of the program, we already have almost the next program filled,” explained Executive Dean of Manufacturing Richard Hoerth.

With a changing job market, some employers have been dealing with what they call a skills gap.

They say they are willing to hire, but can’t find qualified people to fill the spots.

And it seems more people are beginning to understand the gap in skilled labor in the state. And so the college decided there’s only one way to address the growing need and interest, expand.

The more than $6 million project includes doubling the size of LTC’s Flexible Training Arena and modernizing the Trade and Industry building.

The expansion project is one of the largest of its kind for the nearly century old school. Officials expect the expansion will increase the number of graduates by 50 each year.

“The manufacturing sector in Manitowoc County and the lakeshore in general is extremely important. It’s about 37% of our employment,” explained Connie Loden, Executive Director of the Manitowoc County Economic Development Corporation.

Economic development officials feel the expansion is coming at the right time, but the skills gap stretches beyond Wisconsin.

According to an annual survey by ManpowerGroup, skilled trades was the hardest job to fill last year in the U.S, and it’s topped the charts since 2010.

“As the economy grows, we’re part of that solution and our employers need a skilled workforce to grow and that’s where we come in, is working with them and working with the students in the area,” explained LTC President Michael Lanser.

The college plans to break ground on the project in June. Officials say grants, loans and private investments will cover the costs.

In addition to this milestone, the college will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 8th.

From “MATC leaders propose smallest tax increase in recent years” — Madison Area Technical College leaders are proposing to raise taxes by less than 1 percent next year, which if passed would be the smallest hike from the college in recent years.

It’s part of an overall budget that has closed an estimated $5.2 million shortfall through a variety of measures including raising selected student fees and cutting 10 jobs although no faculty will be let go, said Tim Casper, assistant vice president for budget and public affairs.

Taxes on the average $239,239 Madison home would increase by about $3 under the proposed 2013-2014 budget presented at a District Board meeting Wednesday, bringing the total MATC tax on the mythical average home to about $437. That does not include other portions of the tax bill, such as city, county and public schools.

The modest tax increase comes after larger bumps by the college in recent times. The average annual increase between 2001 and 2011 was 6.32 percent. Last year the college’s portion of the tax bill rose 3.96 percent.

The small bump budgeted for next year takes advantage a new wrinkle in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget that allows technical college districts to raise property taxes at the percentage of equalized value due to new construction. The college estimates that change allows it to levy an extra $750,000, Casper said.

The total amount the college would levy is $123.8 million. The college’s general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations, will be about $150.5 million, an increase of about 2 percent next year.

Ten positions would be cut under the new budget, including three that are currently vacant, Casper said. Six staffers would be cut in the business procurement center, with another 1.2 full-time equivalent positions in health education cut. The job cuts will save $580,000, Casper said.

Students applying to the college would pay $25 to take the college’s Compass entrance test, a fee that’s already levied on prospective students at all other state technical colleges, Casper said. Students would also pay an “academic support fee” starting next year of $1.65 a credit for college transfer students and $1.22 a credit for students in occupational paths.

From “Newsmakers: Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy” — In a Newsmakers interview in her office on Jan. 14, Foy said the System had more than 362,000 students last year and the typical student is about 34 years old. She also said the colleges coped with a 26% cut in state aid over the last two years by eliminating some programs, adding more wait lists and laying off instructors.

Listen to interview


From “UW-Parkside, Gateway expand dual enrollment” — A new partnership between Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside means students can enroll in both institutions at the same time.

The arrangement, which expands the option from a few degree programs, provides a clearer path for students intending to transfer from Gateway to Parkside and also allows students in certificate programs at Gateway to be eligible for state and federal financial aid.

“This provides another option for a four-year (degree) path,” said DeAnn Possehl, Parkside’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.

The new dual enrollment program, to be available for the spring 2013 semester, will have students complete 30 general studies credits at Gateway — by taking classes like math, English, economics, biology and speech — and then complete degree-specific classes at Parkside, college officials explained in a press release last week.

The program is officially called the 1-Plus-3 General Studies Certificate Program, to represent the one Gateway year and three Parkside years that would be completed by a student with a full-time course load, the release said.

Such an arrangement can help students who have cost, scheduling or admissions concerns, Possehl said.

Because students in the program register through Gateway, which has less stringent admission requirements than Parkside, the 1-Plus-3 program can create a Parkside enrollment path for students who might not have gotten in otherwise, she said.

The 1-Plus-3 program can also be a more convenient option for some because Gateway offers weekend courses, and it can be a more cost-effective option because a year at Gateway is generally cheaper than a year at Parkside, Possehl said.

Plus, she added, students in the program will be eligible for state and federal financial aid, unlike students in Gateway’s certificate programs. That’s because aid is only available for “degree-seeking” students and those in certificate programs don’t fall into that category, Possehl said.

Another benefit of the program is that it increases the likelihood that Gateway courses cleanly transfer to Parkside, saving students time, money and headaches.

“We get a lot of transfer students in general from Gateway and they aren’t always taking the courses they need to transfer,” Possehl said. “The exact courses are spelled out with this.”

The no-cost program is not intended to help only students though. It’s also supposed to help the colleges, Possehl said.

Hopefully, the program will mean more students for Gateway and Parkside, and more degrees awarded in less time, things that help the colleges’ statistics, Possehl said.

To get more information on the program about how to qualify or how to enroll, call Gateway’s Student Services Center at (262) 564-2300.


From “Nicolet’s University Transfer Program sets new enrollment record” — Enrollment in Nicolet College’s University Transfer Liberal Arts program hit a new record high in 2011-12, with 448 Northwoods students enrolled. The program provides students with the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. They then transfer their Nicolet credits to four-year colleges and universities.

“Students increasingly are seeing the great value and great education they can get in Nicolet’s University Transfer Program,” said Rose Prunty, Dean of the University Transfer Program, during a report she gave to the Nicolet College Board of Trustees during the board’s October meeting. “They recognize that it is a very good way to begin working on a bachelor’s degree.”

Since 2009, enrollment in the University Transfer Program is up 22 percent, she added.

Along with being the largest academic program on campus, accounting for about one out of every three program students at Nicolet, it is also one of the oldest, as it was founded with the opening of college in 1968.

“Over the years thousands of Northwoods students have used the Transfer program as a stepping stone to higher levels of academic achievement,” Prunty said. “It’s encouraging to note that many have also returned to this area to apply their skills in a wide variety of fields, from education, to health, to natural resources and many others.”

Today, Nicolet has in place more than 70 credit transfer agreements with numerous four-year colleges and universities. These include many private college and all institutions in the University of Wisconsin System, including UW-Madison, the system’s flagship campus.

The sweeping partnership that includes a guaranteed admission agreement with UW-Madison creates a smooth pathway for Northwoods students to study at a world-class university famous for its high admissions standards, she added.

Furthermore, under the Connections Program, students are enrolled at both Nicolet and UW-Madison and enjoy all of the benefits each institution has to offer. This includes receiving a UW-Madison ID that grants access to UW-Madison libraries, recreational facilities, ability to purchase tickets to UW-Madison athletic events at student rates, and access to cultural and social events on the UW-Madison campus.

When students graduate from Nicolet’s University Transfer Liberal Arts Program in good academic standing, they transition to UW-Madison where they are granted full junior status.

In the past five months alone Nicolet has received 230 requests from students to have their transcripts sent to a variety of post-secondary institutions, a necessary step in the transfer process.

“This is a solid indication that many students are continuing their path to a bachelor’s degree,” Prunty said.

According to the data collected, the most popular destination campuses for Nicolet Transfer students are UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay, and UW-Madison.

Prunty also pointed out that the trend Nicolet’s University Transfer Program is experiencing is being mirrored across the country. Nearly half, or 45 percent, of all students who finished a four-year degree in 2010-11 had previously attended a two-year college, said Prunty, citing information from the National Student Clearinghouse.

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 “Editorial: Tech schools fill big need” — It’s a crown jewel in Wisconsin’s educational system, but doesn’t always get the attention, or the appreciation, it deserves.

The state’s 16 vocational-technical colleges collectively serve tens of thousands of residents, from teenagers to the elderly. Students come to learn scores of skills that help them obtain good jobs, from carpentry to high-tech positions.

One of the smaller — but more sophisticated of those 16 schools that serve Wisconsin is Blackhawk Technical College. Its main campus is on Prairie Road between Beloit and Janesville. Branch campuses are in Monroe and in the Eclipse Center in Beloit. There’s a smaller training center at Janesville, and an aviation unit at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

WE DRAW READERS’ attention to Blackhawk Tech because the college is observing its centennial next week. There’s a campus open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a celebratory dinner and scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 13. And there’s much to celebrate.

BTC currently has some 5,700 students. Enrollment tends to fluctuate from perhaps half that number to over 6,000. Since the General Motors plant in Janesville shut down in 2008, former GM employees have joined younger and older students to retrain for new careers.

Blackhawk Tech’s president, Thomas Eckert, proudly asserts that the school has dedicated itself to meeting current shortages of skilled workers, be it in construction, manufacturing, the medical profession or other fields. Meanwhile, there are assorted courses for those who simply want to find fulfillment in art, literature and so forth.

STUDENTS’ AGES VARY from the mid-teens to 90 and sometimes beyond. If there’s enough demand for classes in basket-weaving or parachute jumping, the technical colleges probably can provide the teaching required.

Blackhawk Tech’s student body currently consists of about 3,000 at the central campus, whose facilities constantly are being improved; to the Beloit campus’s enrollment of about 1,400 and a similar number at Monroe.

Eckert is proud to point to BTC’s record of having most who graduate with technical, associate or other forms of certification, find the right employment soon after they complete their one- or two-year stints at the college. Eighty-seven percent of grads find jobs within six months.

ALL OF WHICH suggests that the technical college system helps Wisconsin keep its manufacturing, construction, medical and service industries supplied with the workers needed. It’s been doing that since the state directed public school systems back in the Fall of 1912 to create “vocational schools” for young people wanting to find paying jobs instead of finishing high school, or older folks who were either under-employed or had no job-training.

Older Beloiters will remember the Vocational-Adult school on Fourth Street, which served until the 1960s. Other cities, including Janesville, had similar schools. The popularity — and productivity — of the local schools prompted the state to create 16 districts, each to be served by a central campus and branches as needed. The Blackhawk Tech district, serving primarily Rock and Green counties, is the fifth smallest of the state’s 16 tech colleges.

It turns out that the colleges have been a good investment. Blackhawk Tech’s current budget is about $50 million. That may seem like a lot, but consider that in a year’s time, as many as 4,000 get the training they need to enter the workforce. That’s a good investment. Tuition, often supplemented by financial aid, accounts for about half of the budget. Local property taxes and state aid make up the difference.

AGAIN, THOSE FIGURES may seem hefty, but Eckert says that the community, in one way or another, realizes benefits of $140 for every $100 spent.

Wisconsin’s public school system is, of course, vital as well as costly. And the University of Wisconsin system, with its two- and four-year campuses (including UW-Rock County) ranks with some of the best among the state. So do our private colleges, including Beloit College. We’re fortunate, indeed, that the Badger State’s technical college system bridges what would otherwise be a wide gap between the public schools and the colleges that not everyone wants, or can afford, to attend.

ANNIVERSARY CONGRATULATIONS go out to the technical college that serves our area so well, and to the foresighted leaders of earlier years, who saw the need, and filled it.

From “Madison College Portage Campus expansion” — Frances Huntley-Cooper addresses a crowd of about 60 people on Wednesday at the official presentation of the expansion at Madison College Portage Campus. Huntley-Cooper is the chairwoman of the Madison College District Board of Trustees. She thanked the community and commerce for supporting the expansion. The 2,200-square-foot expansion behind the existing facility at 330 W. Collins St., is mainly for science education and hands-on labs to teach students skills that employers say are in high demand. Thanks to a $952,000 building referendum approved in 2010, those kinds of classes will be more common in Portage. The referendum passed with 60 percent of the vote. Expansion includes a video conference room, two additional science labs, a new lounge and computer area. The Portage campus encompasses about 11 acres, said John Alt, north region administrator for Madison College. “Really, the intent of this build out is to complete the arts and sciences degree. Before people had to go to U-Boo (University of Wisconsin-Baraboo), or MATC-Reedsburg or Truax in Madison,” he said. Enrollment is predicted to increase in Portage by at least 10 percent, Alt said.

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  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 “Mixed reviews for tech schools’ request to boost student aid” — While lawmakers in Madison acknowledge the need to invest in Wisconsin’s technical colleges, it remains to be seen if they are willing to nearly double the amount of money available for state-financed student financial aid grants in the next state budget.

Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), vice chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, said in a statement there is a very real need to get people the type of training technical colleges provide. Hansen also said the request will require closer examination.

“What we can afford and whether it makes more sense to invest it in more financial aid or providing more instructional opportunities is something we will need to take a close look at,” Hansen said.

It is reasonable for the board to request the additional funding, said Mike Mikalsen, speaking for Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater). But Mikalsen said he was not sure if the governor would have the money available to meet the request. He added that if money were available for education, it may be directed toward the K-12 system instead.

Last week the technical college system board requested an additional $34.1 million for Wisconsin Higher Education Grants. The request would be in addition to the nearly $37.6 million the system received in the current budget. Technical college spokeswoman Morna Foy said the money is necessary because of a growing need to help students find a way to pay for school. For the coming school year, the system was not able to give grants to 49,000 eligible students.

Cullen Werwie, speaking for Gov. Scott Walker, said in an email the specific request will be evaluated in the context of the entire state budget.

Sen. Jessica King (D-Oshkosh), chair of the Committee on Job Training, Technical Colleges and Workforce Development, said the technical colleges need to be made a priority.

Citizens are beginning to understand there is a gap between the demand employers have for skilled workers and the number of available employees, King said. She said the skills gap presents an opportunity for lawmakers to come together.

Foy said she is glad to hear lawmakers are open to the request and wouldn’t expect them to consider it outside of the context of the full budget.

“It is up to us to make the case,” she said.

Foy added, “Students’ financial need is so great right now.”

She said students are often likely to enroll and also less likely to stay at technical colleges because of their economic situation. That works against the system’s efforts to attract more students to fields where employers have a demand for skilled workers, Foy said.

Before the last state budget, the technical college board requested an additional $23.4 million over two years, but the request did not make it into the governor’s proposed budget.

Werwie noted the budget that did pass included no cuts in student financial aid. He said it was important that training at technical colleges leads directly to available jobs.

He also said the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation is developing partnerships between private businesses and local technical colleges, providing grant money paired with available jobs.

Earlier this week, the foundation announced nearly $3.8 million in grants to five of the state’s technical colleges.

“It’s a good thing that businesses are chipping in to provide assistance for training,” Werwie said.

Foy said the foundation’s grant program is important, but added that because the program is targeted at jobs with certain employers, it will not be able to replace the higher education grant.

Mikalsen said Nass, chair of the Committee on Colleges and Universities, would like to see local technical college boards take steps to save money.

“It’s not just a simple equation of raising tuition,” Mikalsen said.

He said the technical college system must focus on the demand for certain jobs within local areas, rather than just getting more students through the door.

From “Stevens Point authorizes negotiations with Mid-State over new campus building” —  Stevens Point officials have authorized continued negotiations with Mid-State Technical college over a proposed new campus downtown.

City leaders voted 9 -2 in favor of that measure tonight. Mayor Andrew Halverson says he’ll meet with leaders from Mid-State to go over what sort of help the city can provide in building the new campus.

Alderman Mike Wiza says the reason for the closed session is one of negotiation. “That’s just so that Mid-State isn’t stacking the deck in what they can get out of us.” He says the issue is one of public fundings as well, since both Stevens Point and Mid-State are taxing entities.

Demolition for the main structure of the Centerpoint Mall was approved tonight by the city council as well. The city will also be building a road through the area currently taken up by the structure of the mall.

Residents and some city officials were upset last month after the city announced those plans to tear down the mall, saying that the city had previously sought public input on a plan that would preserve the main structure and create a atrium and mall space for the community. Mayor Halverson and Community Development Authority Director Michael Ostrowski explained at meetings that the option to keep that section would be cost prohibitive if the city later tore down the atrium again if no tenants could be found.

The city has around 6 million dollars in funding for the project overall.

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 “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.”

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