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State commits $500,000 to boost bachelor's degrees

Green Bay, Wis. — In a bid to increase per capita income, retain more college graduates, and give working adults more career advancement options, the state announced Thursday a commitment of $500,000 to help more residents complete baccalaureate degree programs.

The announcement, made at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is part of the state's strategy to play catch up in terms of the number of citizens with bachelor's degrees. Seven programs have been selected to receive the funding based on recommendations of the Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion (COBE), a joint committee of the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Higher-education attainment is closely linked with per-capita income, a key motivation for the initiative. "It's simple - the more Wisconsin citizens who hold college degrees, the more we can attract high-paying jobs, bolster the state tax base, and improve Wisconsin's economy," said UW System president Kevin P. Reilly.

Wisconsin consistently ranks at the top among states in student performance on the ACT college admissions test, but the state has not translated that into higher numbers of residents with bachelor's degrees. Workers who receive a bachelor's degree earn, on average, one-third more than those who did not finish college, and twice as much as those with only a high-school diploma.

According to COBE figures, Wisconsin would need to produce 72,000 more four-year college graduates by 2010 to equal the national average for the percentage of bachelor's degree holders, age 25 and older, in the state's population.
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Funding for the degree-completion programs was allocated in the 2005-2007 state budget. Among the programs that will receive funding are the NEW ERA bachelor of applied studies degree, which is designed to serve working adults in northeastern Wisconsin. Funding also is allocated to the UW System Adult Student Outreach pilot, which serves adults and nontraditional students.

Also receiving funds are:

• Four programs that call for collaboration between UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College to advance degree-completion for students in healthcare, nursing, business, and engineering programs.

• The UW-Stout COBE Initiative, which will provide more flexible degree options for Wisconsin Technical College students who are place-bound, working full time, or both. An emphasis will be placed on distance-learning and online courses.

• An expansion of the Graduation Project at UW-Oshkosh, which began as a pilot program by offering enrollment incentives to 100 students that left campus between 1999 and 2003. New funding will expand it to 1,500 students.

• The UW North Central Consortium Project, an alliance that will offer UW-Stevens Point upper-division courses at the UW-Marathon County and UW-Marshfield/Wood County two-year campuses.

• A Baccalaureate Completion Project at UW-Superior, which will receive funding to lure back 50 students who left campus with junior standing between the fall of 2000 and the present. The campus will partner with UW Colleges' online-degree program to help students complete general education requirements.

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