The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is partnering with Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) to increase opportunities for low income students to complete their education and enter a higher-wage profession.
As a prelude to its centennial celebration in 2015, the foundation is making a signature, $500,000 investment in scholarships for students participating in MATC’s integrated career pathways program. These need-based scholarships covering the cost of tuition, books and supplies have the potential to help 350-400 students over three years.
“For more than 100 years, MATC has helped students advance their education, preparing them for jobs that drive our local economy, from manufacturing to information technology to the culinary arts,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, who announced the grant Wednesday at the foundation’s Annual Meeting. “We are committed to helping eliminate the barriers to success for these students. We believe that providing scholarships to promising MATC students with the greatest need will improve program completion rates, reduce student debt and lead to better jobs for more of our community’s young people.”
Inadequate financial resources severely affect students’ ability to enter and complete collegiate programs. This is pronounced for community colleges. In 2013, 52 percent of students served by MATC were economically disadvantaged.
Additionally, as many as 70 percent of students nationwide who enter the two-year college system are academically underprepared to perform in a higher education setting. For others, the lack of a high school diploma or GED precludes their full participation.
To address significant barriers to education and employment, MATC is one of the first technical colleges in the state to offer career pathways, which define coursework and the credentials students must earn to be a qualified candidate in the industry of their choice. The initiative enables students to address gaps in their basic skills while simultaneously progressing toward their career goals. Progress is incentivized through “stackable” credentials, meaning students can build a portfolio of industry-based credentials, leading to greater employment opportunities and quicker entry into the workforce.
MATC offers career pathways students 360-degree support services, such as study skills training, career counseling and financial literacy training, to increase retention rates and improve academic performance.
“On behalf of the entire Milwaukee Area Technical College community – our students, faculty, staff, alumni and District Board – I would like to thank the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for its investment in our career pathways initiative,” said Dr. Michael Burke, president of MATC. “This commitment has the potential to be transformative for an entire generation. Providing scholarship support for students who demonstrate the greatest need will enable them to pursue their career goals. As a result, the Milwaukee community will be strengthened, one of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s core goals.”
The importance of higher education is on the rise nationally. On average, those who complete an associate degree will earn $10,700 more per year than someone with a high school diploma alone. By 2018, two-thirds of Americans will need a postsecondary degree or credential to obtain employment, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.
Supporting scholarships for MATC’s career pathways students aligns with many of the key issues in which the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is engaged as a community leader, including strengthening education, increasing economic opportunities, promoting racial equity and inclusion, and building strong neighborhoods.