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Madison College administrators await jobs bills' details

Provost says more scholarships, money for apprenticeships are promising

MADISON, Wis. - Jesse Christianson has been in a Madison College classroom since 2003, going back and forth from full time to part time.

His latest academic endeavor brought him to the nursing labs, with plans to transfer to University of Wisconsin-Madison for a bachelor's degree and to eventually become an emergency room nurse.

"I like people and I like medication. I like the science, the chemistry behind it. I'm pretty decent with people," Christianson said. "I actually enjoy it, so I figured this would give me some longevity in a career."

Christianson said he was lucky enough to save up over the years, allowing him to pay tuition as he went. Not all students are as financially fortunate, according to MATC Provost Terrance Webb.

"The biggest barrier of students coming here to study is financial," Webb said.

Webb said some of that is a result of students studying part time, not able to take full advantage of financial aid.

However, Gov. Scott Walker will announce his proposal for a series of jobs bills Wednesday. A source close to the governor told News 3 about seven bills that will move forward, at least two of those directly affecting technical colleges.

One bill would make scholarships available to high-performing technical students looking to pursue higher education.

Another bill would offset the cost of apprenticeships for employers covering tuition and wages for those students.

Webb said MATC is already attracting a higher caliber of student, and those in the school's manufacturing and information technology programs have job offers before they even finish the program.

"I think as students realize that they need to be academically excellent as well as technically excellent that we're able to produce the kind of workforce that our employers tell us that they need," Webb said.

Webb said he has seen more privately-funded scholarships available to students than help from the state or federal government to encourage technical education. He said that's an old way of thinking, and a focus on technical colleges is an appropriate response to a recovering economy.

"The technical path in secondary education has always taken a back seat to what is called the academic path," Webb said. "We know from our experience here that there is, that both of those tracks require the same basic level of skills, especially in science and mathematics."

Webb said he did not know enough about the bills to comment specifically on how they could help enrollment or the current student body at MATC, but said he would be disappointed if the proposals did not make it through the legislature in some way.

"Anything that encourages people to access higher education here is a positive development," Webb said.

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