MATC president talks accomplishments, challenges ahead of her retirement
Milwaukee Area Technical College’s longtime president is stepping down. Vicki Martin announced she’ll retire at the end of this school year, after 10 years leading the school.
Martin says she's thought about retiring for a few years, but felt she needed to stay on the job during the pandemic.
"I thought, well let me just get us through this next period, and making sure everything was in place post-pandemic," Martin says. "My husband had been retired for eight years. It was just time. It was time to retire."
Martin says she's most proud of her work to increase scholarships at MATC. During her tenure, MATC launched a free tuition promise program. It guarantees free tuition for students who meet certain criteria.
Many of the students would have their tuition covered by federal Pell grants for low-income students, even without the promise program. But a study found that the promise program's clear message of college affordability encouraged more students to attend.
"Access is really important to me," Martin says. "I’m always trying to find ways to make it easier for students to come to school, but also have college costs covered."
Martin also touts the new Checota Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship for students earning short-term certificates or technical diplomas. The scholarship covers not just tuition, but housing and other living expenses.
MATC serves a majority-minority student body, with many older adults going to school part-time to earn an associate's degree or technical diploma. The students, many of whom are low-income, face barriers in and outside of school to complete their degrees.
MATC's graduation rate in fall 2021 was just 18%.
Martin says MATC is working to boost the number of student finishing their programs on time. She says retention rates — students come back from one year to the next — have increased, especially for Checota Scholars.
"What we've learned is the more resources we can bring to all of the needs that students have, the better off they'll be," Martin says.
She says costs like childcare, transportation and food can get in the way of students' education.
"If we do help students with all of the needs that they have while they're trying to go to school...they can complete [their degree]," Martin says.