By Dr. Vicki Martin - President, Milwaukee Area Technical College
Since our founding in 1912, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) has offered the education and training area residents need for in-demand careers that drive the region’s economic prosperity. Our college and, more importantly our graduates, are integral to the vitality of southeastern Wisconsin.
Every year, we graduate 2,800 students with the education and hands-on training needed to close the skills gap. Local business and industry leaders recognize the significant contributions our graduates make to the success of their companies. One question I have been asked frequently since becoming MATC president in 2014 is, “When will your students be ready to come work for us? We need them!”
It truly is a great problem to have, but the reality is 90% of our students attend classes on a part-time basis. The average MATC student age is 30, which means family and work commitments often come first and students may delay their education, and ultimately their careers, to address these obligations. Unfortunately, our local employers do not have time to wait.
'Promise' provides tuition plus support services
Enter the MATC Promise. In April 2015, after learning about successful Promise programs in other states, I formed a team to develop the MATC Promise, a program that would pay the tuition and fees for students who enroll at MATC directly from high school and meet certain eligibility criteria. The program is a “last dollar” scholarship, which means MATC pays the balance of a student’s tuition and fees (after federal and state aid awards have been applied) for five semesters, which is typically enough time to complete an associate’s degree.
Our initial goal for the first Promise class was 1,000 applicants. More than 3,100 high school seniors applied to MATC, or 214% of our goal. Ultimately, close to 1,200 Promise applicants enrolled at MATC in the fall of 2016. The program is supported entirely by private funds and we rely on our generous donors to continue the MATC Promise program as long as the need for career and technical education exists.
When students arrive at MATC, a network of support services is in place to help them succeed. I am extremely proud that more than 500 faculty and staff members serve as mentors to our Promise students.
The Promise, which makes the dream of college a reality for young people, is just one example of MATC’s commitment to transforming lives, industry and community by preparing today’s students for the careers and workplaces of tomorrow.