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Transferring to UW-Madison may soon get easier for this group of students. Here’s why

June 21, 2018 GMT

Students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a University of Wisconsin System two-year institution or Wisconsin technical college may have more help during the transfer to a four-year college thanks to a five-year, $1 million grant.

The grant is geared toward increasing the graduation rate of STEM transfer students, many of whom are first-generation college students from rural communities or come from underrepresented minority groups.

UW-Madison data shows the six-year graduation rate for transfer students lags five percentage points behind students who enroll at four-year institutions as freshmen.

UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College will partner in the first year of the program, according to a UW-Madison announcement Wednesday. Other college partnerships across the state will form in the coming years. In the 2015-16 school year, 285 MATC students transferred to UW-Madison. Of those, 154 took upper-level STEM courses at MATC, an indicator that they are pursuing a STEM degree, according to Kevin Mirus, MATC’s STEM Center director.

“This grant will help support students before they even submit their transfer application,” Mirus said. The partnership may allow MATC students to meet UW-Madison faculty — who may later become their professors — before transferring to the university.

Miranda Newman, who will transfer from MATC, also known as Madison College, to UW-Madison this fall, said a partnership like the one the grant will provide, would “streamline” a few of the “hiccups” she encountered during the transfer process.

While Newman said her advisers were helpful, talking with UW-Madison faculty in her area of interest — zoology — early on in her time at MATC would have been a welcome addition. UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE) received the grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“We want to see if we can figure out what is happening with those students before they transfer and after they transition to the four-year school to determine how best to support them,” WISCIENCE director Janet Branchaw said.

The program aims to help 375 transfer students and train more than 1,000 faculty and staff over the five-year grant period.

Tuition assistance programs, such as Badger Promise at UW-Madison and Scholars of Promise at MATC, will be incorporated into the program.