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Speaker’s Task Force on WTCS

Katharine C. Lyall, President

University of Wisconsin System
Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Good Morning. Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. It is always a pleasure to share the podium with my colleague, Richard Carpenter. Since his arrival, we have worked very closely, most notably together with President Wegenke of WAICU and State School Superintendent Burmaster as leaders of the PK-16 Council which exists, in part, to achieve what we are talking about today – a more seamless web of educational opportunities for the citizens of Wisconsin.

Dr. Carpenter has given you an overview of the technical colleges and I want to briefly talk about the collaboration between our two public systems of higher education. I also want to show you the strides we’ve taken and present our plans to further strengthen credit transfer. Your help and support in these areas is very important to our progress.

Public higher education in Wisconsin is very efficient and, as you know, very important to the future of Wisconsin’s economy. The UW System produces 29,000 graduates per year. The vast majority of them stay in Wisconsin and contribute to the economy and the tax base. The Wisconsin Technical College System produces almost 18,000 graduates per year who do the same. These systems complement each other well and minimize duplication.

Wisconsin made a conscious choice in the early 1970s when it created the UW System not to include the technical colleges in that merger but to keep them independent and focused on technical and vocational education, as both employers and labor representatives preferred. There are three technical college campuses that do offer college parallel courses and function more as conventional community colleges.

One of these, in fact -- Madison Area Technical College -- is the single largest source of transfers to the UW-Madison, more than 1,000 students per year.

The charts on pages two and three of your handouts show the overall transfer figures – first, the number of students moving from our campuses to the technical colleges and second, the number transferring from technical colleges into UW campuses, a number which has been growing as you can see. As you can see the number of students was nearly identical last year. Our student enrollment data for 2003 are not quite final, but preliminary figures indicate that the same upward trends are continuing. The growth in these numbers reflects the changing needs of our students but it also reflects recent changes in both our systems that are facilitating more student and credit transfers.

We have made great strides in recent years in this area and, as I will discuss in a moment, are about to take several more large steps.

We have:

  • Created what we call 2 + 2 programs where students can begin their degrees at a technical college and then transfer 50 to 60 credits from those programs to complete the baccalaureate degree at a UW System institution. Page four of your hand-out shows the existing 2 + 2 programs in high-demand fields such as nursing and clinical lab science. This also includes what we call an “upside-down degree” where students first complete their area of specialty or major at a technical college and then finish with their general education and capstone courses at UW-Stout.
  • Page five of your handout shows the planned expansion in 2+2 programs including Accounting and Marketing in Southeast Wisconsin and Supervisory Management with UW Oshkosh and technical colleges in other areas of the state.
  • Each system also has an ombudsperson empowered to work with individual students, trouble-shooting and resolving credit transfer problems. We also have credit transfer advisors at each UW institution.
  • Page six shows you our special website for our Transfer Information System or TIS established in 1996 so that students can access information that tells them which of their technical college credits will transfer. TIS enables students to plan ahead and know with certainty how and where their credits will transfer. TIS is a valuable tool and we want to encourage more students to use it – hence the promotional brochures that we have distributed with our materials.

Before I turn to some further steps we are taking, I want to stress that our two systems also are collaborating in other important areas as you can see on page seven.

  • Purchasing: Our two systems have negotiated a number of joint purchasing agreements, particularly in the area of technology. Our current contract with Microsoft is one example where we saved $300,000 by working together. We also saved $172,000 by executing a Novell Systems contract together.
  • Technology: UWS and WTCS are partners in the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Lab which does applied research on new learning technologies. This joint initiative just received a million dollars in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and has made Wisconsin a leader in the development of a common language for online learning modules.
  • Economic Development: Through the three Wisconsin Economic Summits (the fourth will be held this October 27-28), our two systems are providing leadership in the critical area of state and regional economic development. Our institutions are also collaborating on a regional basis throughout the state on local economic development initiatives such as the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation (CATI), created jointly by UW-Parkside and Gateway Technical College and other educational and business partners in southeast Wisconsin to promote business development, workforce development, and technology innovation in that region.
  • Shared Facilities: In those areas where our campuses are in close proximity, WTCS and UWS institutions share some facilities. For example, UW-Barron County and Wisconsin Indianhead share cafeteria and library services and are collaborating with a private developer to build a shared residence hall; UW-Stout is using facilities at both UW-Sheboygan and Lakeshore Technical College to offer degree completion programs in those areas of the state.

All these collaborations help us service Wisconsin citizens and avoid duplicating efforts at taxpayer’s expense. Can we make even more progress? Yes, we can. And I am pleased to tell you about three exciting new developments that we will be bringing to our Board of Regents in the months ahead as you will note on page eight.

  • Across the Board Transfer of WTCS General Education Core Courses
    Our two systems are establishing a list of WTCS core courses that will transfer to all UW institutions. These courses will have common titles, course numbers and competencies at all WTCS institutions. Students in WTCS applied associate degree programs will be able to transfer 25 credits from any of these courses and have them apply toward general education or other degree requirements at any UW campus to which they transfer. The UW System and WTCS are prepared to implement this new system by second semester this year.
  • Credit Transfer Contract
    By next fall, entering WTCS students will have a credit transfer contract available to them. This contract is modeled on our own UW System four-year degree graduation guarantee and will enable a student to plan their academic careers knowing that, if they plan ahead and get passing grades, their credits will transfer from the technical college system and will apply toward a bachelor’s degree. This contract shares responsibility with the students; if they follow the prescribed program, their credits will transfer.
  • Transfer of Occupational/Technical Courses
    One frustration for students is that many of the occupational courses they take in the technical college system do not transfer to UW campuses because our current Board of Regents’ policy permits WTCS occupational courses to transfer only through formal articulation agreements. We will be proposing that the Board of Regents revise the Undergraduate Transfer Policy to enable UW institutions to transfer WTCS occupational/technical courses not only through such agreements but also on a course-by-course basis. These courses, upon review by UW faculty, will be transferable where they are comparable or equivalent to UW courses. Those courses will be posted on our Transfer Information System website so that students will know that as they plan their studies.

This does not mean that eventually every single WTCS course will transfer to every UW System campus and vice versa. Again, our missions are separate and distinct. There are specialized courses taught at WTCS for training in vocational disciplines that don’t apply to our UW degree programs. At the same time, there are UW courses that do not apply to the mastery of occupational skills. Our goal is to ensure every student’s success by ensuring that his/her coursework fits together properly to equip that individual well for their work and life.

It’s important to understand that today’s students move dynamically in both directions between our systems. And the movement is not always a straight line. Instead, we have a lot of what we call “swirling.” In other words, some students move back and forth between our systems and may be enrolled at two campuses, one in each system, at the same time. This is a good thing; it is a sign of educational efficiency and dynamic client opportunities.

Finally, we need your help to serve Wisconsin better. We are working to further expand credit transfer opportunities but these opportunities will be meaningless to students unless we have the faculty and UW courses to accommodate those students and give them access to the courses and majors they desire. As the state’s economy improves, it is important that our state reinvest in both of its public higher education systems. This is the best strategy for closing the gap of more than a thousand dollars between the average family income in Wisconsin and the national average. It is an investment that will pay dividends in higher income that, in turn, could enable lower personal income tax rates in years to come.

We particularly need your investment in new workforce initiatives – last fall, UW and WTCS worked together on a joint healthcare workforce initiative to provide more nurses and nursing instructors for Wisconsin. It outlined an exceptionally efficient and effective way to address a pressing state need. This year’s budget did not permit that program to be fully funded but it remains a critical priority and worthy of state investment. This kind of programmatic collaboration also can pay handsome dividends for Wisconsin’s future.

Finally, you can help by letting your colleagues and constituents know about our credit transfer programs and referring anyone with problems to our TIS website or one of our ombudspersons who are listed on page nine and in our brochure.

Thank you for the opportunity to address your committee. As I mentioned at the outset, the UW System-WTCS partnership is strong, effective and continuously improving. And the beneficiaries are the citizens of Wisconsin.

Dr. Carpenter and I would be happy to respond to any questions you might have. Thank you.

PDFUW-WTCS Collaboration Presentation

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