Government Relations

Testimony on Pending Legislation: Assembly Bill 67

Testimony For AB67, an Education Tax Credit for Employers
Before the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy
Jessica Tormey, Communication and External Relations, UW-System

March 28, 2007

Chairman Strachota, Members of the Committee, thank you for allowing me to appear on behalf of the University of Wisconsin System and President Kevin Reilly.

President Reilly has met with many of you to speak about our “Growth Agenda” and the need to help more Wisconsin workers attain their four-year college degree. As more state residents grow their education, they will be better prepared for 21st-Century job opportunities and success in the Knowledge Economy.

To help Wisconsin compete and thrive in a global marketplace, we need to increase the number of students who pursue post-secondary education, and we need to help more of those students succeed in college. We also need to welcome more non-traditional-aged working adults back to school and help them achieve equal success.

It’s estimated that 1.2 million Wisconsin adults, age 20-25, have earned some college credits, but stopped short of earning their four-year degree. Market research shows that, of those, as many as 60,000 are specifically interested in enrolling in a degree-completion program in the next year.  By meeting the specialized needs of those adult learners, we can propel Wisconsin ahead of our neighboring states, like Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.  

This is the idea behind our Adult Student Initiative (ASI) – the component of our Growth Agenda being spearheaded by UW-Extension. That initiative is aimed at increasing the number of flexible course offerings that might fit into the busy schedule of working adults, as well as the specialized advising and student services that will better serve that population of older students.

We know that many of those adults, when they do return to college, will do so with the support of their employer. As our public university works to remove barriers of place, time, and service, the state can help minimize one additional barrier – cost.  As businesses are encouraged to invest directly in their employees, they will contribute to a larger number of degree-holders in Wisconsin’s workforce. Those workers will, in turn, contribute to their companies’ success, the overall economic vitality and the size of our tax base. As a bonus, these new adult graduates will almost certainly remain within our state, due to established family and work obligation, ensuring that taxpayers see a direct return on their investment in higher education.

Our message is clear:  access, affordability and growth.  The education tax credit is another tool to help boost the number of degree holders, ultimately improving per capita personal income level, and driving the economy.  The UW System is happy to partner with the state legislature on this effort, and I would be happy to answer any question you may have at this time.