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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, Northstar Consulting Group revealed their findings.

All results apply to the year 2020.

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

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

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

The community can vote on the plan Nov. 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue Budjac is president of Mid-State Technical College.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the referendum would work:

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

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

Construction would start in June 2013, officials say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training offered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons for drop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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