Col­lege ef­fort has mixed re­sults

Col­lab­o­ra­tion of MPS, MATC, UWM aims to boost stu­dents’ ac­cess to, suc­cess in higher ed­u­ca­tion

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukeewisconsin - An­nysa John­son

A 2-year-old col­lab­o­ra­tion aimed at in­creas­ing the num­ber of Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Schools stu­dents who grad­u­ate from col­lege has made in­cre­men­tal progress on at least some of its goals, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing MPS’ grad­u­a­tion rate and the per­cent­age of stu­dents who ap­ply for fi­nan­cial aid.

But it has strug­gled in oth­ers, pri­mar­ily in get­ting stu­dents to stay in col­lege af­ter that first year, lead­ers of the city’s three largest ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions — MPS, Mil­wau­kee Area Tech­ni­cal Col­lege and the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Mil­wau­kee — said.

MATC Pres­i­dent Vicki Martin, UWM Chan­cel­lor Mark Mone and MPS Su­per­in­ten­dent Keith Posley up­dated col­leagues and sup­port­ers on the progress of M-cubed — an ef­fort they say could re­shape Wis­con­sin’s work­force and change the tra­jec­to­ries of thou­sands of Mil­wau­kee stu­dents — at a pre­sen­ta­tion at MATC last week.

“We re­ally have a skills gap. We also have in­tense poverty and in­ter­gen­er­a­tional poverty. And we know that ed­u­ca­tion is one of the key so­lu­tions to these is­sues,” Martin told about 200 peo­ple gath­ered for the event.

“We know we need to con­nect more his­tor­i­cally un­der­rep­re­sented groups into col­lege — stu­dents of color, stu­dents who are eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents. Our M-Cubed ini­tia­tive is go­ing to be part of that so­lu­tion for our state and for our re­gion.” Ac­cord­ing to the three:

❚ MPS’ four-year grad­u­a­tion rate rose from 58.2 per­cent in 2015 to 62.2 per­cent in 2017, the lat­est data avail­able.

❚ The per­cent­age of MPS grad­u­ates who en­rolled in post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion within a year rose from 44.2 per­cent to 46.2 per­cent.

❚ The per­cent­age of stu­dents fil­ing Free Ap­pli­ca­tions for Fed­eral Stu­dent

Aid, or FAFSA, rose from 60.8 per­cent to 74.6 per­cent.

❚ But both MATC and UWM strug­gled to keep their MPS grads af­ter the first year. MATC’s re­ten­tion rate fell from 49 per­cent in 2015-16 to 44 per­cent in 2017-18, and UWM’s held steady at 65 per­cent.

They re­main well below the goals set out when they launched M-cubed in 2017. But they said they will con­tinue to work to­ward those tar­gets for the 2019-20 school year: an MPS grad­u­a­tion rate of 72 per­cent, post-sec­ondary en­roll­ment within a year of 60 per­cent, FAFSA com­ple­tion of 80 per­cent, and col­lege re­ten­tion af­ter the first year of 55 per­cent for MATC and 72 per­cent for UWM.

The ma­jor­ity of MPS grads who go to col­lege en­roll at MATC and UWM.

But they of­ten strug­gle when they get there, grad­u­at­ing in some cases at lower per­cent­ages than stu­dents over­all, and of­ten re­quir­ing re­me­dial cour­ses that drive up costs for stu­dents who can least af­ford it.

M-cubed grew out of con­ver­sa­tions about those chal­lenges among Mone, Martin and then-MPS Su­per­in­ten­dent Dari­enne Driver, all three of whom as­sumed their po­si­tions about the same time in 2014.

As part of the ini­tia­tive, their in­sti­tu­tions worked to­gether to re­boot pro­grams at Bradley Tech High School so its grad­u­ates could suc­ceed at MATC and UWM.

They re­vamped their re­cruit­ing ef­forts and added a new cur­ricu­lum cen­tered on in­dus­try sec­tors, such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, con­struc­tion and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. They beefed up and stan­dard­ized the ca­reer-plan­ning re­sources avail­able to stu­dents and brought in fac­ulty and staff from MATC and UWM to work with stu­dents and teach­ers.

And they bol­stered their dual-credit cour­ses that al­low stu­dents to trans­fer cred­its to MATC and UWM.

They en­hanced and stan­dard­ized their math cur­ric­ula across the three in­sti­tu­tions; adopted in­di­vid­ual aca­demic plans that fol­low stu­dents from mid­dle school to col­lege; launched a full-court press for FAFSA com­ple­tion; and cre­ated a fam­ily re­source pro­gram to help par­ents sup­port their stu­dents.

And last year, MATC launched its Prom­ise for Adults, of­fer­ing free tu­ition for el­i­gi­ble stu­dents with at least six cred­its to fin­ish their as­so­ciate de­grees.

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