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UW to strengthen college access

Chancellor Rebecca Blank. Photo by Jeff Miller.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is in Washington, D.C., today (Thursday, Jan. 16) with a set of initiatives to strengthen the university's commitment to making college accessible to low-income students.

Blank is participating in a White House conference of university presidents discussing college accessibility and student success. Blank also attended a dinner Wednesday with a group of university presidents to discuss these issues with senior administration officials.

"We should all be concerned that students who have met the academic credentials to get into college are not denied access to quality higher education and that we have the programs in place to help them use their abilities to succeed once they get here," Blank says.

"While we have worked hard to make sure that students from lower-income families have access to UW-Madison, there is more we can and should be doing," she adds.

Also attending the White House summit was University of Wisconsin System Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Mark Nook. In addition to UW-Madison, the System includes one other doctoral university, 11 comprehensive universities, and 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges.

Among the commitments UW-Madison is making as part of the event is an expansion of college pipeline programs, such as the PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) program, which operates in lower-income areas in Wisconsin. Currently, the UW program involves nearly 900 pre-college students and 350 matriculated college students.

UW-Madison's college pipeline programs also include participation in the national Posse program. The university was the first major public research institution to participate in Posse, and is the only higher education institution to partner in four major metropolitan school districts, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York, each including 10 students per year.

Additionally, UW-Madison will establish an Institute for Science Education. The ISE will work to target low-income students in K-12 schools with programming to get them more interested in pursuing degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

ISE would also work closely with first- and second-year students to provide advising on careers in STEM, complementing current campus programs such as the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Learning Community.

The Posse Foundation has announced a grant of $500,000 over the next five years to complement the work of the ISE.

Blank said UW-Madison will also commit to increasing staffing in the offices of Admissions and Recruitment and Student Financial Aid to provide increased advising to low-income students and prospective students.

In addition, Blank pledged that a portion of funds raised in the university's upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign will be dedicated to increasing need-based aid to low-income students.

Greg Bump