Daniels touts MATC’s Scholars of Promise

July 31, 2017

Madison Area Technical College (MATC) President Dr. Jack Daniels spoke at a Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn Thursday regarding the recently created Scholars of Promise program, meant to assist low-income students achieve a college education.

“Scholars of Promise program is basically built on one premise,” Daniels said. “That premise is, no student should have finance as a barrier to coming to our institution.”

The first Scholars of Promise program began about 11 years ago in Long Beach, Calif. Tennessee and New York also have Promise programs, both of which are state-based,

meaning the state has put dollars into them.

“The difference here is that we are doing this on purely private funds,” Daniels explained. “So we are looking at, how do we raise enough dollars, initially, to bridge that gap, but also to develop an endowment. We know that we’ll serve probably in the vicinity of 400 students with the first group, which is this fall.

“When we think about the endowment — because I want to make sure it’s sustainable — that’s about a $15 million pricetag,” he continued. “So our foundation is really in a campaign about the endowment and how we build on the endowment.”

So far, about $1.4 million has been raised.

MATC’s philosophy regarding its Scholars of Promise program is that it’s not just about the finance. It’s also about what wraparound services can be provided to students.

“We’re going to wrap around those services that would include everything from counseling to advising to financial aid to financial literacy to tutoring,” Daniels said. “We have academic success/achievement centers, making sure that they’re connected. There’s a mentoring portion of that program as well.”

He said the belief is that, by surrounding a student with those types of services, it greatly increases the likelihood of success and completion of whatever degree, certificate, technical diploma, etc. that a student is going for.

“We also start with what we call a Learn-to-Learn academy, which is two weeks before classes start,” Daniels noted. “We bring in the scholars and those scholars will learn study habits, what are the types of things they need to do to transition from high school to college. Because what we want to do is ease that transition, but have them understand that they’re going to a post-secondary institution.”

Currently, MATC’s Scholars of Promise program focuses on recent high school graduates from any of the 41 school districts served. However, there are ongoing conversations regarding how to open the program up to the entire population.

The average age of a MATC student is 27, according to Daniels.

To be eligible for MATC’s Scholars of Promise program, a student must graduate from a Madison college district high school that is in one of the 12 counties it serves, be it a private, public or homeschool; have at least an 80 percent attendance rate; have a minimum grade-point average of 2.25; submit ACT or Accuplacer placement test scored by May 1; apply for a program at Madison College by April 1 of his or her senior year, and complete the FAFSA financial aid application by April 1.

“If we think about, what are we going to be funding financially to ensure that no high school student has to worry about tuition or fees, we look at the FASFA,” Daniels said. “What can they get from the pail?

“Then you add to that, what is the family financial contribution?” he added. “If it’s below $3,000, we know that’s basically almost poverty level. If it’s lower than that, you can be a part of that program.”

The MATC president said to think of the Scholars of Promise program not as the first dollar in, but as the last.

“So we look at, when you get the pail, what are the scholarship dollars you may be bringing with you, are there any other external dollars that are coming, and, then, what is the gap between that total and the cost of tuition and fees?” Daniels said. “That’s what we fund — the gap. So there is no financial burden on tuition and fees — we’re funding the gap.”

After being accepted into the program, students must begin courses at MATC within nine months of graduating high school. They also must attend an advisor registration session.

Once in school, students have to maintain full-time status with at least 12 credit units per semester, maintain a 2.0 GPA and participate in a service learning project each semester.

“We have many service learning projects in the college,” Daniels said. “Some of those service learning projects are in the community. As the student advances, we also find service learning projects out of state. We also have service learning projects internationally.”

Also, each student will have a personalized education program (PEP).

“As these students come in, each one of them will have their own personalized education plan with a pathway to get to where they’re looking to go,” Daniels said. “We will actually have mentors and advisors checking in with them periodically to ensure that it’s still what they want to do.

“We know many students may tell you the first year, ‘This is what I want to do,’” he continued. “By the time the third semester comes, it could be something different. Sometimes, when the fourth semester comes, it’s different than the third and first. But we need to be engaged in that.”

Currently, 890 people have expressed interest in the Scholars of Promise program. Students have submitted 81 percent of those interest forms and 50 district high schools are represented.

Thus far, 171 students have been accepted into the program.

“There’s 182 students that have a higher (family contribution) than required,” Daniels said. “Though they may not be eligible for the financial end, we’re putting them through the program so that they may take advantage of the wraparound services. They will have the mentor and they will have the coach.”

Incoming students are interested in educational programs “across the board,” he said.

The maximum amount of time a student can be a part of the Scholars of Promise is six semesters, or three years.

When asked what the student success rate of Scholars of Promise programs across the nation was, Daniels said he believes the “jury’s still out on the outcomes.”

“I believe that to be successful, you have to have the wraparound services,” he said. “Without those wraparound services, the student is going to have difficulty with the success.

“I’m not just looking at the college,” Daniels concluded. “I’m talking about when they go to the university level or to work.”