Rising Costs Drive Renewed Effort To Speed Up Degree Process

Ann McClure's picture

The report arrived with fanfare. Written with input from faculty, students, staff and elected officials, it aimed to launch the University of Wisconsin System into the 21st century with a bold new plan, including a guarantee of a cap and gown in four years at all campuses.

The UW System would work with high schools so students could take college courses while still in high school. A high-performing student could graduate from high school in three years and head off to college early to earn a degree faster.

The year was 1996.

Sixteen years later, the UW System seems far from meeting the lofty goals of the "Study of the UW System in the 21st Century" as it embarks on a new statewide initiative to make the path to a college degree more nimble and less costly through dual enrollment in high school and college.

As Wisconsin's education landscape changes and schools strive to achieve more with less state funding, the pressure is on for the UW System to dramatically boost its number of college grads, without ballooning student loan debt, to help drive economic growth. Wisconsin's 26% of residents with a college degree ranks behind the national average of 28%, which lowers per capita income.

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