The “promise” of an education

State technical colleges offer free tuition for eligible students

Without a doubt, the workforce of the future will require additional skills beyond what a traditional high school education can offer. To meet that need, three Wisconsin Technical College campuses plan to deliver that requirement free of charge to eligible students.

Milwaukee Area Technical College, Nicolet Technical College and Madison Area Technical College have each established “Promise” programs that will pay for two years of college tuition and fees for eligible students once federal and state financial aid has been applied, as long as the student maintains full-time status and a satisfactory GPA.


With all three programs in their inaugural year, application is currently open to 2016 high school graduates.

More than 2,900 high school seniors applied for admission to MATC by the December deadline, compared to just 166 high school seniors who had applied to the school in December 2014.

“We are extremely pleased with the interest in the program,” said Vicki Martin, president of Milwaukee Area Technical College. “We are uniquely positioned to train tomorrow’s workforce, and this program will allow more students to consider MATC for their education needs.”

According to Martin, a large majority of MATC students only attend part time as they must work to afford tuition. The Promise programs will help alleviate payment concerns for students, who will then be able to focus on their education full time, she said.

To date, the MATC Foundation has raised more than $515,000 to support the program. It has also deferred more than $100,000 in endowment gifts and secured several major gifts from local individuals, alumni and associations, including a $250,000 challenge gift from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Nicolet Technical College in northern Wisconsin used the MATC program as a model for its own program.

“Our community businesses are experiencing many of the same challenges when it comes to workforce training and development, and we wanted to help address those needs,” said Richard Nelson, NTC president.

Principals, counselors and teachers in the Technical College districts are excited about the Promise programs, and so are area businesses, Nelson said.

At a time of changing demographics in the state and the migration of a lot of our young people, we’re hoping that this program and others like it will prompt more growth and development of the skilled workforce here in the state.”

Madison Area Technical College has also implemented its Madison Promise program and, according to Martin, Gateway Technical College, Wausau Technical College and Fox Valley Technical College are all exploring the feasibility of launching Promise programs in their home communities.

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