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Milwaukee tech college offers first ever full-ride scholarship for low-income students

Scholarship covers everything from tuition to child care for students below federal poverty guidelines

Students at Milwaukee Area Technical College spend time together in the Student Center
Students at Milwaukee Area Technical College spend time together in the Student Center. MATC has numerous programs aimed at broadening access to a college education, including free tuition and debt forgiveness to qualifying students and dual enrollment programs that allow high school students to earn college credit. Photo courtesy of MATC

For the first time ever, Milwaukee Area Technical College is offering students from low-income homes the chance to attend the school for free.

A $5 million pledge from Milwaukee businessman Joe Checota and his wife Ellen is the foundation of the Ellen and Joe Checota Scholarship Program at MATC. The couple will offer two-to-one match for additional donations to the effort. MATC officials hope to raise a total of $7.5 million.

Current students and those enrolled for the spring semester with at least a 2.0 GPA and who live in households earning below federal poverty guidelines have until the end of Friday to apply for the scholarship funding. Although the deadline is this week for the spring semester, school officials anticipate the scholarship will be an ongoing program.

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“One of the ways of giving equal opportunities to everybody is to give students who need financial help an opportunity to receive a technical or trade diploma or certificate that will enable them to support themselves and their families,” Checota told Wisconsin Public Radio.

The scholarship program provides up to 18 months of funding for students enrolled in 90 short-term degree and certificate programs at MATC. It’s a last-dollar scholarship, meaning any costs not covered by federal or state financial aid will be paid.

During a Wednesday press conference announcing the pledge and scholarship, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the effort will boost the local economy by helping fill open jobs with employers like the city itself.

“These jobs offer economic stability to families,” said Johnson. “And when that happens, we get economic stability in neighborhoods. And when that happens, that’s good for the entire city.”

MATC President Vicki Martin said hundreds of students have already applied for the scholarship.