A pair of college-appropriate associate degree programs could come to Gateway Technical College in the coming years as officials look for opportunities to bolster enrollment numbers and meet local demand.
The Gateway District Board on Thursday gave college administrators the go-ahead to continue a lengthy process of seeking state-level authority to offer two new degrees designed to be easily transferred to a four-year college, specifically within the University of Wisconsin system.
If approved, the Associate of Science degree would contain many general education courses that a student would take in first and second year at a university. It would emphasize the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.
The separate Associate of Arts degree would be tailored in much the same way, but would emphasize different areas of study, including the humanities and social sciences.
Current state law restricts associate degrees in science and the arts to a few technical colleges — including those in Milwaukee and Madison — and legislation has been proposed to make those degrees available to all systems in Wisconsin.
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Gateway President and CEO Bryan Albrecht said efforts have been made locally to make degree programs available. The desire, he said, is to roll out the programs as soon as possible.
“At Gateway, we did not want to wait for legislation to make this decision, so we have been working for at least two years on establishing our own structure for an application to the Council of State and ultimately to the Regents” , said Albrecht.
An affordable option
While tech colleges are often synonymous with profession-specific associate degrees, Albrecht and other Gateway administrators said two-year tech colleges serve other functions for students looking to save on tuition. and take courses that will easily transfer to a four-year university.
“We are losing students to Milwaukee who want to pursue parallel programs in college,” said Zina Haywood, executive vice president and provost of university and campus affairs.
Haywood said the offers would be particularly beneficial to the region since the University of Wisconsin system has not offered a two-year transfer campus in Gateway’s footprint.
“This is another opportunity for our students,” Haywood said. “This does not take away from the professional degrees that we will continue to offer. It is an additional degree course for our students interested in four-year degrees.
John Thibodeau, deputy provost and vice president, said he and other Gateway administrators plan to provide a rationale to state-level authorities on the need for associate’s degree programs at all three campuses.
“We’re showing data to the state that there’s a demand for the program,” Thibodeau said. “We want to provide students with as many quality pathways to a bachelor’s degree as possible.”
R. Scott Pierce, chairman of the Gateway District Board, warmly endorsed the proposal at Thursday’s meeting.
“I think that’s really important, when you think about those students who are still wondering and not sure what they’re going to major in,” Pierce said. “Think of the savings we can achieve for these students.”
With local approval in place, Gateway officials plan to take their application to a state board and, ultimately, a board of regents for approval.
“We have a long road to approval,” Thibodeau said. “We’re just taking the first steps now.”