University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College Team Up To Amplify Student Success
April 11, 2022

​ACE members University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College have teamed up to close equity gaps and increase degree attainment in Wisconsin with their program, M³.

M³ started in 2015 with the leadership of the three primary public educational institutions in southeast Wisconsin: Vicki Martin, president of Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC); Mark Mone, chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM); and Keith P. Posley, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). UWM and MATC offer three pathways to give students a head start on their college careers: general, nursing, and education. Through this partnership, both colleges hope to increase the retention, graduation, and career success of their over 130,000 students. 

Their strategies involve academic and career planning and curriculum alignment to support students’ aspirations and entrepreneurial drive. To achieve this goal, M³ provides options for dual enrollment, educates students and staff on those options, and accommodates students’ transportation needs. Students have the option to complete 200-level courses at the colleges and Advanced Placement high school courses for potential college credit.

M³  also strives to increase four-year completion rates for MPS high school students by setting FAFSA goals and establishing school implementation teams that provide internal support for academic and career plans for MPS students. The project ensures parents are prepared to advocate for their student’s success. To increase the enrollment of MPS graduates in higher education, M³ conducts outreach to students, educators, parents, and volunteers to identify and promote pathways to college and careers.

Imunique Triplett, a student at Rufus King International High School, attributed the program for making her nursing aspirations a reality. Triplett faced her fears of the unknown and became a licensed practical nurse before graduating high school.

“[When] I actually started the program, I kind of realized, ‘You know, I’m glad I didn’t let my preconceived judgments decide where I take this or where I don’t take this.’ And [it’s] definitely the best decision I could’ve made,” Triplett told Madison 365.

Phyllis King, associate vice chancellor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says the numbers show the project has had an immediate impact.

"Early successes have been an increase in MPS graduation rates, an increase in MPS graduates enrolling in postsecondary education within one year, improved transfers through aligned coursework, increased credit acquisition through dual support for incoming students via summer bridge programming, and we implemented curricular reform whereby 72 percent of participating students complete credit-bearing math in their 1st year at MATC or UWM,” she said “Most recently, through dual enrollment, 94 students graduated with college credits saving more than $750,000 in college costs while still in high school. M³  is truly making a difference. Our greatest rewards are the success of our students."

Both institutions serve diverse populations and hope to build the region’s workforce pipeline by making the process inclusive to the community. UWM and MATC acknowledge that employment, income, social mobility, and other variables hold too many people back, and they hope to help close these gaps with scholarship support, emergency grants, more equitable admissions requirements, and mental health support.  

MATC also concluded that placement tests can act as a barrier for many students, determining that the ACCUPLACER test was not an accurate portrayal of students’ potential.

“We had a student who had taken the ACCUPLACER many times,” Martin told Milwaukee Courier Online. “But once we dropped the ACCUPLACER as a tool to place students in classes and we started giving her the support that she needed, she came through with a passing grade.”

UWM prioritizes student belonging by working with student identity centers and peer mentors. The college looks at stronger technological support and high-impact advising to help students manage their classes. Mone believes that students need to be met where they are. 

“There is such enthusiasm, there is such passion,” he said​. “Many people are now asking: ‘Why have we not done this before? Why are we not invested in the joint efforts that it really takes for us to talk about curriculum alignment, parental involvement, scholarship opportunities, academic achievement, and ultimately graduation and preparation for careers?’ I would argue that M³ is the most important educational initiative happening in southeastern Wisconsin, if not beyond.”

Tony Tagliavia, chief marketing officer at Milwaukee Area Technical College, is hopeful about what the program can achieve.

"Working together intentionally as institutions that serve more than 100,000 diverse students has already yielded dividends. As the work continues, we have the potential to create the change our community and region need — at scale."