Explain It To Me: Wisconsin Technical Colleges’ Mixed Recovery

Dec 16, 2022 | Wisconsin Voices Blog

Enrollments FTE Students

What happened? WTCS published its 2021-2022 results and the public reacted positively.

Give me 3 positives. First, total students in applied associate’s degrees (degrees in specific disciplines) indeed recovered about half the loss from 2020. Students in general associate’s degrees (which don’t verify any specific skills) did not, suggesting students increasingly focus on degrees that get them jobs. Second, graduation rates stayed stable which means that the pandemic did not harshly affect students committed to completion. Third, both graduation rates and enrollment are much higher than than 2019 among non-White students. In other words, Wisconsin’s increasingly racially diverse state is finding success at 2-year college.

Give me 2 negatives. First, while that is all great news, full-time equivalency is actually down, even from 2021. Part-time students are driving headcount enrollment recovery. Second, low-income students declined from 2021 and are 9,000 fewer than in 2020. Technical colleges, therefore, are acting less as a path to the middle class than before.

What should be done? Some of these mixed results are explained by an absolutely massive increase in high school students taking dual-credit courses or apprenticeships through technical colleges. To IRG, that’s great news! Students who have familiarity and a head start at technical college are more likely to enroll, succeed, and make a terrific living. Let’s open those opportunities to private school students and cut red tape to maximize how much high school credit a student can earn with hands-on experience.