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Wisconsin Colleges Are Offering Different Incentives To Attract Students

Campus Officials Begin Planning For Fall Semester

Marquette University, Milwaukee, Gretchen Brown
Gretchen Brown/WPR

When COVID-19 started to spread across the state, Wisconsin colleges had to focus on transitioning to more robust online learning for the rest of the semester. Now, the focus is on the upcoming fall semester and encouraging prospective students to commit.

Colleges have been tasked with figuring out how they can connect with prospective students and motivate them to apply or accept admission offers. Many families have struggled with the uncertainty of the pandemic and have had second thoughts on attending college in the fall.

To alleviate stress, some colleges have offered different incentives to help incoming students and their families.

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The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is offering a $500 scholarship for new freshmen and new transfer students who commit by June 1.

Patrick Fay, director of admissions at UW-Milwaukee, said the university is allowing students to commit and complete their next steps toward enrollment throughout the month of August instead of the usual May 1 deadline.

The university is also accepting unofficial transcripts and is being flexible with other application materials.

Other colleges such as Marquette University and UW-Madison have also granted deadline extensions for students who need more time to make their final decision. Instead of the May 1 deadline, both universities are allowing 30-day extensions for students that ask.

UW-Madison anticipated a freshmen class of roughly 7,300 students, nearly 3,700 of those students would be in state.

André Phillips, director of admissions and recruitment at UW-Madison, said they should be able to surpass the 7,300 students anticipated by at least 100.

“We’ll likely have several hundred students that we’ll work with throughout the month of May leading up to the June 1 deadline, and that’s pretty significant,” Phillips said.

MU has seen a decrease in fall enrollment compared to last year.

John Baworowsky, MU’s vice president of enrollment management, said enrollment is down 17 percent, which is roughly 250 students.

“My theory is that students have basically decided that May 1 isn’t something they are going to be following this year because they need a little more time to make up their minds about where they want to go to school,” Baworowksy said.

As WPR has previously reported, MU is running a telephone campaign where select faculty and current students are connecting with prospective students.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior is offering rolling admissions, and will work with applicants until the end of August.

Jeremy Nere, executive director of admissions at UW-Superior, said the university will continue to actively recruit students throughout the summer months.

“We know that some local students from the Twin Ports may be looking at staying closer to home this fall and more students in the region may be looking at pursing their education in a smaller campus setting,” Nere said. “So we certainly welcome those students who are still making their decision between now and the end of August.”

The Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) is reopening their free tuition program, known as Promise, to high school seniors and adults that apply to the college and meet criteria.

“As we were looking at what was happening and determining how best to serve our students, we made the conscious decision to reopen that application,” said Dr. Amir Law, vice president of enrollment management at MATC.

The program offers free tuition and course fees for up to 75 credits. MATC is also offering a new initiative that will be announced in the next few days that will provide students with additional support and resources.

Law said enrollment is up at the technical college compared to last year. He said he believes many students have a desire to stay close to home because of the uncertainty of the pandemic and are thinking about other alternatives instead of attending four-year universities.

“Because there is uncertainty around are resident halls going to close down again? Do we have to come back home? What does online learning look like?” Law said. “We recognize that students may still change plans moving forward.”

Many colleges have offered virtual opportunities for future students and parents to ask questions and learn more about college life.

MU has been providing different video opportunities to explore campus and connect with current students. MATC is offering something similar with their MATC Live events.

Institutions are also making plans for the 2020-21 school year, which starts in August or September.

Many administrators are hopeful face-to-face classes can resume come fall but schools are preparing to offer different options.

Phillips said there are too many questions that some universities don’t have the answers too and that the decisions will come with time.

“We would all like to be open in the fall, there’s no question about that, we all would like to return to whatever that old normal used to be,” Phillips said.