by Ariele Vaccaro
Next year, one thousand freshmen that might not have otherwise been able to will attend Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) for free under a new initiative called the Promise Program.
Vicki Martin, president of MATC, announced on Wednesday that the school would immediately begin recruiting low-income high school seniors to take part in the program’s first year.
“We’re calling it a game changer,” she said.
According to Martin, it became apparent that the program would be necessary when she saw a decline in student enrollment at MATC.
Older students with families have been leaving to work full-time.
But as the demand for middle-skill workers with two-year degrees increases, she saw the program as a way to tackle poverty in Milwaukee.
“I really believe education is the way to overcome it,” said Martin.
“It really does make a difference in the students’ lives.”
Similar initiatives, such as the Tennessee Promise, inspired the program.
“We came up with our own criteria that we thought would really benefit most students,” Martin said.
The criteria require that students graduate from a Milwaukee high school on time, that they apply for federal student aid, that they maintain a 2.0 GPA during their senior year, and that they achieve a score of 16 on an ACT test.
In addition, their expected family contribution (EFC) – a number used to determine how much financial aid a student will receive – must be lower than $3,000.
After being accepted into the program, students will attend MATC full-time for two years, free of charge. Students who aren’t accepted to the Promise Program will be able to appeal the decision. Dec. 1 is the deadline for applications.
The MATC Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve education at the two-year college, will be funding the program in its first year with money from its Million Dollar Campaign.
According to Martin, the school will be starting an endowment campaign to fund the program further in the future.
MATC has been reaching out educational leaders like Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver to establish paths for possible program participants to follow from high school to the two-year college.
There isn’t currently a free tuition program or plan in place for Madison College, but the school will be watching for the success of the MATC program in Milwaukee, and in the future may try to develop a similar program, said communications manager Cary Heyer.
Madison College is, however, trying hard to ensure that individuals who come from a financially disadvantaged background can still attend Madison College, and President Daniels has been very adamant about the right for all people, regardless of income, to receive a college education.