Lakeland University extending MATC free tuition program to four-year students

New scholarship aimed at helping low-income students graduate debt-free

Lakeland University president David Black announces the tuition program.

Building off of a free tuition program at Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeland University in Sheboygan County announced today that it will offer free tuition to qualifying students seeking their bachelor’s degree.

MATC launched its MATC Promise program in 2015 to provide free tuition to low-income high school graduates through the publicly- and privately-funded initiative.

The program covers tuition and fees for program courses, after other grants and scholarships are applied, for up to 75 credits. Since its inception, 514 qualified students have enrolled at the college through the program.

Lakeland is now establishing a scholarship fund to extend that program to graduating MATC Promise students who go on to attend the university full-time. For many of the students, the scholarship will cover all tuition after federal and state financial grant aid has been applied.

“This partnership with Lakeland provides a path to a four-year degree that opens access to careers that require education beyond an associate degree, continuing our vision of connecting students to family-supporting careers and building the workforce our region needs,” said Vicki Martin, president of MATC.

MATC president Vicki Martin

The two institutions have previously partnered on various transfer agreements.

David Black, president of Lakeland University, said the two institutions serve similar student populations. About 70 percent of Lakeland’s students are federal Pell grant recipients.

“The spirit of MATC’s Promise is very exciting to us,” Black said. “It ties to Lakeland’s mission of using the liberal arts and experiential learning to educate people of diverse backgrounds, and prepares them to think critically, communicate effectively, succeed professionally, and lead ethical, purposeful and fulfilling lives.”

It also builds on other efforts by Lakeland to minimize debt among its graduates. The university recently rolled out a cooperative education model that allows students to gain 12 to 18 months of professional work experience with area companies, while earning an estimated $100,000 in wages and scholarships over four years to defray tuition costs.

“When there’s $1.6 trillion of student debt (nationally), shame on us,” Black aid. “We all need to work to do something about this.”

Under the new scholarship program, if the funding does not cover all of a student’s tuition, Lakeland said it will help students secure paid work experiences through the cooperative education program to keep costs down.

“We are deeply committed, as are all the folks at MATC, to students graduating with no debt or as little debt as possible, particularly if they come from economically challenged situations,” Black said.

In 2018, MATC expanded eligibility for the Promise program to cover tuition costs for students 24 years and older who are living in the MATC district and have already completed some college credits. That program, MATC Promise for Adults, provides eligible adults free tuition, after scholarships and grants are applied, for up to 75 credits toward an associate degree tied to a top 50 in-demand career in Wisconsin.

About 690 eligible students enrolled in the MATC Promise for Adults program in 2018-19.

The returning adult program is more costly and relies more heavily on philanthropy, Martin said. MATC assists many returning students who are already in loan default, while also covering the cost of tuition.

The MATC Foundation, Inc. has received more than $2 million from more than 230 donors to support the Promise programs. The programs’ largest donor, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele personally gave $250,000 for the MATC Promise for High School Graduates and an additional $500,000 for the MATC Promise for Adults.

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