A fresh start

By Ginny Gnadt

A Wisconsin college is getting students back in the door by helping them pay off their past-due balances to the college.

Lack of funds and past student debt prevent many students from finishing their college degrees. Milwaukee Area Technical College is taking another step to address these challenges by launching a debt scholarship program to help eligible returning students repay up to $1,500 of past-due balances owed the college for expenses such as tuition, books and other fees.

“Our research showed that many students were unable to finish their academic programs due to relatively modest debt owed the college,” MATC President Vicki J. Martin said. “MATC degrees and diplomas help individuals gain jobs that earn family-sustaining wages. We want to remove the barriers blocking our students from finishing college. Along with programs like our tuition-free MATC Promise, we believe MATC ReStart could make a crucial difference in changing lives for the better, especially in this time of economic distress caused by the pandemic.”

Called MATC ReStart, the program is being offered to returning students who last attended MATC between Fall 2009 and Spring 2018, and who have an existing account balance of $1,500 or less. Students can earn up to $500 in scholarships to repay their debt each semester they are successfully enrolled at MATC for up to three semesters. It does not apply to debt owed on government student loans.

MATC ReStart began as a pilot program called “Start Fresh” in Spring 2020, helping 56 qualified students return to continue working towards their degree. Nearly 7,000 students potentially fit the MATC ReStart criteria for the fall semester. They must apply by July 17 and fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or create a payment plan at program orientation. Eligible students must have completed six MATC credits but not have earned an associate degree, and enroll in at least six credits in the Fall 2020 semester.  Eligible returning students should already have been contacted by the college if up-to-date contact information is available.

To continue in the program, students must do the following each semester: enroll in six college level credits, earn a grade point average of 2.0 or better, successfully complete 67 percent of credits attempted and perform 15 hours of volunteer work.

The seed funding to begin the MATC ReStart program came from proceeds from MATC’s participation in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadcast incentive auction in which the MATC Board of Directors sold a portion of the airwaves used by Milwaukee PBS’s Channel 36. Some of the funds were designated for making college education more accessible and affordable.

This article was originally posted here.

Ginny Gnadt

is the public relations coordinator at Milwaukee Area Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.