‘Return to the U’ partnership helps adults complete degrees

A new partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Fox Valley Technical College is encouraging former UW System students to come back and finish their degrees.

The initiative, “Return to the U,” kicked off in earnest June 6 as officials sent letters to about 3,500 individuals who have credits at UW-Green Bay, but for one reason or another did not complete their degrees at the University. “Return to the U” invites those students to either complete a degree at FVTC or another Wisconsin technical college first, or come back directly to UW-Green Bay in person or via online classes.

Respondents who show interest in returning to school will be asked to take an online Student Success Survey to assess their readiness, identify strengths and pinpoint areas in which they may need support. Returning students will be paired with volunteer alumni mentors who help them navigate their return.

“ ‘Return to the U’ offers all returning adult learners the chance to evaluate their readiness to return to college, speak individually with an academic adviser, work with an alumni peer mentor and access entire degree programs either online or face-to-face one weekend per month in Green Bay, Appleton, Wausau and Rhinelander,” said Steve VandenAvond, Associate Provost of Outreach and Adult Access at UW-Green Bay. “Finally, students wishing to earn an associate degree first can do so through UW-Green Bay, or through Fox Valley Technical College or another technical college campus.”

The partnership will help students explore their options for higher education while allowing them maximum efficiency in pursuing a degree, added Chris Matheny, Vice President for Instructional Services at FVTC. Matheny noted that FVTC offers a number of supportive resources toward this partnership that benefit adult learners, including financial wellness initiatives, ongoing college readiness workshops and a regional JobSeekers Network.

The “Return to the U” initiative comes at a time when educators and officials statewide have emphasized the need to increase the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin, which lags behind neighboring states in the percentage of citizens who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Individuals who receive a baccalaureate degree earn, on average over their working lifetime, about one-third more than workers who did not finish college, and nearly twice as much as workers with only a high school diploma, according to a 2005 UW System report. UW-Green Bay officials hope to welcome back at least 50 new students in each of the first three years of the “Return to the U” initiative, and early response indicates a great deal of interest in returning to school, VandenAvond said.

Increasing the number of degree-holders statewide has clear economic benefits, said Eric Craver, director of External Relations for Outreach and Adult Access at UW-Green Bay. Returning adults tend to stay put once they finish their degrees, mitigating the so-called brain drain phenomenon.

“Return to the U” will issue a second mailing to about 7,500 prospective students within a couple of weeks. This correspondence will have a broader reach, targeting adults within 50 miles of UW-Green Bay’s four major service areas of Green Bay, Appleton, Rhinelander and Wausau. FVTC’s district serves the counties of Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, and Wautoma. Depending on response, a third mailing could follow for those outside the primary service areas.

Information on “Return to the U” is available at www.returntotheu.com.


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