A Promise for adults

A year ago, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) launched MATC Promise for Adults, a last-dollar program offering free tuition for eligible students to finish their associate degrees.

How did the first year go? Nearly 3,330 potential students expressed interest in the MATC Promise for Adults for 2018-19, with approximately 1,000 of those students enrolling, including 689 who met all of the program’s qualifications. As impressive is the fact that 78 percent of those adult learners persisted from fall to spring.

“The MATC Promise for Adults generated a tremendous amount of interest last year,” MATC President Vicki J. Martin said in a release. “We are excited to offer the program for additional students for the next academic year.”

Editor’s note: This article comes from the AACC 21st-Century Center.

Qualified students must be at least 24 years old and live in the MATC district; have an annual family income of $56,000 or less; have earned at least six college credits but not an associate or bachelor’s degree; and have been out of college for at least two years.

Other Promise programs across the country have also started to expand their services to adults, with Tennessee Reconnect – an initiative to help more adults return to higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and fulfill goals of completing a degree or credential – among those leading such efforts.

Continued contact

To ensure the success of these students, the college takes a case management approach to work with each student, contacting each one at least three times a semester. There’s a pre-advising meeting to discuss the first few weeks of class, academic standing and support services. That’s followed up with a mid-semester meeting to discuss mid-term grades, review academic standing and develop a plan of action (if needed or requested).

Next comes a priority advising meeting to review student’s program plan and advise to upcoming semester courses. And like all MATC students, they also have access to crisis counseling, a food pantry, housing resources, mental health assistance and more supports.

This isn’t the first Promise program MATC has offered. In 2015, it became the first college in Wisconsin to offer a Promise program for direct-from-high school students. Since inception, 514 qualified students enrolled at the college through the MATC Promise for New High School Graduates.

“Cost is an immense barrier standing between students and their dreams – and we are breaking it down with free tuition,” Martin said. “The MATC Promise is unlocking the doors of college so that everyone can connect to an in-demand, high-wage career and build the workforce this community needs.”

A community effort

Between the two Promise programs, MATC has enrolled more than 1,200 qualified students. They have cumulatively earned approximately 20,000 college credits.

Funded through a public-private partnership, 230 donors have given more than $2 million to the MATC Foundation Inc. in support of the Promise programs. The private gifts fill the gap between what financial aid covers for students and the cost of tuition.

And a new partnership with Lakeland University will help Promise students go on to get a bachelor’s degree. Lakeland will establish a significant scholarship fund that will help MATC Promise students who earn their associate degrees and plan to attend classes full time. For many of the MATC graduates, the scholarship will cover all Lakeland tuition after federal and state financial grant aid has been applied.