From “Making success part of college culture” —  Editor’s note: This article continues a series profiling nominees of the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) 2014 Awards of Excellence. Featured this week are the four finalists in the category of student success. Winners in each of the six categories will be announced at the AACC Annual Convention next month.

At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), student success is more than a concept – it’s a part of the culture. The college’s Dream…Learn It. Live It ​initiative ensures that student success is woven into every facet of the student experience.

Every employee at NWTC is responsible for finding ways to help students master their courses, remain in college and complete some kind of credential.

“For people who are willing to work and earn that credential, helping them succeed is both a smart policy and the right choice,” said NWTC President H. Jeffrey Rafn.

Program advisors work with students from application through graduation. Four-week courses allow students to concentrate on one subject at a time while maintaining full-time status. Supplemental learning with academic coaches and tutors is available for the most difficult courses. Struggling students are identified earlier and directed to the appropriate student services.

To help students struggling financially, college employees created a food pantry, a second-hand clothing store and an employee giving campaign on campus.

What the data show

The college also improved the quality of its data, allowing for more informed decision-making.

This transformation at NWTC wasn’t always easy or comfortable — systems and assumptions had to be changed — but college leaders, faculty and staff have found ways to turn challenges into triumphs.

“The business intelligence available to us has been significantly redesigned so that we can see what helps students succeed and where they may fall through the cracks,” said Matthew Petersen, associate dean for general studies at the college.

From “Grant helps minority student program” — GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Technical College is making a difference for some of its minority students.

The school recently formed a brother-to-brother program designed to help African American men finish college.

The program just received $105,000 from a Madison organization.

Program leaders say it’s all about helping each other through study groups and progress meetings.

“Over the years, studies have been done to show that African American male students have the lowest retention rate in college and completion rate, so what this grant aimed to do is to guide the students, and to remove, hopefully, some of the obstacles out of their way,” said Rayon Brown, FVTC minority student services.

Fox Valley Tech says recent rates show 20 to 25 percent of these students graduate from the school.

There are currently 94 African American men enrolled this semester. 25 of them are in the program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Student Support Services (SSS)

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

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

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

From “Wisconsin to join the Complete College America Alliance of States” — MADISON — Today, the Governor’s College and Workforce Readiness Council (CWRC) made the recommendation to join the Complete College America (CCA) Alliance of States.

The CCA is a national non-for-profit, focused on increasing the number of certificate and degree holders in the nation. States joining CCA’s alliance pledge to significantly increase the number of students successfully completing college and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. Currently, almost 30 states have joined CCA’s alliance.

CWRC representatives include leaders of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Department of Workforce Development, and the Department Health Services, as well as private industry representatives and members of the state legislature. Council members unanimously recommended joining the coalition to embark on common data reporting and initiatives that can help improve Wisconsin’s effort to boost the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees.

“It’s important to consider new ways to improve job placement among college graduates,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Wisconsin’s membership in Complete College America will strengthen our workforce by better enabling our colleges and universities to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”

“We believe that joining CCA can help us achieve the goal of the ‘more Graduates for Wisconsin’ initiative of graduating an additional 80,000 degree-holders beyond our current trajectory by 2025,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “In the process, we can demonstrate once again our strong commitment to transparency and accountability, and help our external stakeholders learn more about our successes in this area.”

“Joining Complete College America is a step towards complete and transparent information for Wisconsin,” added CWRC chair Tim Sullivan. “We need to be able to compare ourselves to other states to improve our strengths and address our challenges.”

“Participating in Complete College America provides Wisconsin’s technical colleges another opportunity to assess our student success efforts and communicate those efforts to state and national policymakers,” said Wisconsin Technical College System President Dan Clancy. “Improving retention and credential attainment for all learners is a WTCS priority. We look forward to learning about and implementing innovative best practices from around the country as part of CCA,” added Clancy.

“Although the 23 colleges and universities in WAICU are all private, nonprofit organizations, they all share in the goal of increasing educational attainment in Wisconsin and look forward to working in partnership with the UW and the WTCS as well as CCA to move Wisconsin forward,” Rolf Wegenke said.

From “New Great Lakes Grant Opportunity to Help Disadvantaged Students Complete College” — More disadvantaged undergraduate students will get help completing their degree, diploma, or certificate thanks to a new grant opportunity announced today by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Great Lakes). The Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants opportunity is made available through Great Lakes’ Community Investments program. Member institutions of the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and Wisconsin Tribal Colleges and Universities are encouraged to apply for grants up to $300,000. Wisconsin nonprofit community- and faith-based organizations are also eligible to apply.

Disadvantaged student populations can face a number of challenges that prevent them from finishing a degree, diploma, or certificate. “Studies show that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to leave school before completing their program of study or degree,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “This grant opportunity is designed to provide these students with the support they need to overcome the hurdles that too often get in the way of college completion.”

Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants will support programs that provide academic, career, and personal support services to undergraduate students. Programs selected for funding must demonstrate that the participants’ semester-to-semester and year-to-year re-enrollment rates are higher than those of their peers. Great Lakes plans to use the reported program outcomes to identify what works best in increasing persistence for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and/or those who are the first in their families to attend college. These results will then be used to inform future funding decisions.

Applications for this grant opportunity can be found online at and are due June 1, 2012.

From “CVTC receives $1.9 million grant” —  A local tech college will receive almost $2 million in hopes they can improve their graduation rate.

Chippewa Valley Technical College received the 5-year grant from the Department of Education. The money will go toward the school’s “Steps to Success program” that helps at-risk students get the help they need to stay in school.

“Students will come into the college and they will take an in-take assessment to help us measure their college readiness,” says Margo Keys, CVTC’s Vice President of Student Services.  “If the students are at-risk, then we will develop a success plan with those students, provide them support in that there will be counselors and there will be transition specialists that will be available to help the students guide through their program.”

CVTC says the program has been in place for the past few years, but they haven’t been able to properly fund it until now.

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