Madison College’s south campus could be an economic driver

The influence of MATC’s planned south campus could be greater than the recent developments on East Washington because of its human and economic impacts.

Steve Goldberg dreams big. Actually, he imagines big and as the gift development specialist for the planned Madison College south campus, he has an empowering image coursing through his mind as he raises money to make the new campus a reality.

Noting that people who live in south Madison are three times more likely to require public assistance and 30% less likely to have a post-secondary credential, Goldberg says a less tangible benefit of the new campus, which could be open for business by the fall of 2019, will be an uplifting impact on the people who live, work, and worship there.

“If you can picture in your mind’s eye a couple of years from now, a family of color raising children on that side of town, pointing to this new building where Park Street meets the Beltline, and telling their children, ‘Do you see that building over there? That’s our college. In a few years, you and your sister get to attend our college.’

“There is a lot of power in that,” Goldberg adds. “It’s not going to be a remodeled hand-me-down. It’s going to be a brand new campus, built specifically for community education.”

The man who convinced Goldberg to come out of retirement and lead the fundraising drive agrees completely. Then again, the south campus was Dr. Jack E. Daniels’ vision to begin with, and if ground breaks in June as he hopes, he believes the corner of Park Street and Badger Road will feature the latest transformational project in Madison’s economic development renaissance.

Daniels, president of Madison College, has pursued a move from MATC’s downtown campus not only to bring educational services closer to south-side residents, but because he believes the south campus is a game changer, especially for students of color and women. It will create degree pathways for them and meet the needs of local health care and technology businesses for trained employees.

The labor shortage is not only another driving force behind the new campus, but it’s also been a powerful motivator for the philanthropic foundations, businesses, and nonprofits that have stepped up to the donation plate. “Among the issues we talk about when it comes to economic development are training and education, and you need to have a qualified workforce for various industries,” Daniels notes. “That qualified workforce has to be trained, and when you think about south Madison, many of those individuals are either underemployed or unemployed.

“If you have viable arm where we can do training and education that moves folks to where their goals are, you’re starting to develop and establish that quality workforce.”

A matter of degree

The south campus facility, which will replace the existing south campus at Villager Mall, will enable Madison College to make profound qualitative improvements in courses and degree offerings. The south campus will have a different emphasis than the Truax campus and serve as an “on ramp” for certain health care and technology degrees. It will have a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) focus, plus basic manufacturing, early childhood education, and an increasing liberal arts portfolio.

The college has a number of equipment-intensive programs at its Truax campus, but it has no intention of duplicating them on the south campus. “That would be [cost] prohibitive for us, but we’re going to have on ramps to some of those programs that would still be at Truax,” Daniels says. “We need to put it in the context of what we now offer in our current south location at Villager Mall. We offer developmental education and ESL [English as a second language], but there are no programs that lead to a certificate, diploma, or degree, and so we’re looking at having a campus whereby individuals can actually get one of those.”

In terms of health care programming, that means CNA [certified nursing assistants], practical nursing, medical assistants, and also the on ramps “so you can take the pre-requisite courses to get in the nursing program,” Daniels says. “That’s going to be key.”

Three technology labs will feature some Cisco and custom service training within the technology realm, but perhaps the most promising tech feature will be the early college STEM academy, which is a partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District to offer a dual-credit technology curriculum. Two years from the start of the new south campus, Daniels hopes to see up to 200 select Madison junior and senior high school students come to the college, do all their educational training there, and receive college credit that is also used for their high school requirements.

According to Daniels, it could be possible for a junior or senior to take 100% of his or her classes at the south campus and receive both their high school diploma and their associate degrees, as well.

“The top two industries in Dane County are health care and technology,” he notes, “so we want to position ourselves well for that.”

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Entrepreneurially centered

Not only could there be more business development in close proximity to the south campus, the new campus also will include an arm of Madison College’s entrepreneurial center. Since the majority of employers in Madison are small businesses, the facility will be a resource for them with seminars, workshops, and collaborative engagement with nearby partners such as the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County and the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Omega Schools and Centro Hispano, the Joyce and Marshall Erdman Access Community Health Center Clinic, Head Start’s Park Street location, and the Literacy Network. The center also exists to review and develop business plans and provide other entrepreneurial services.

“That [Park Street] corridor in itself is a health corridor at the other end, but it can also move down toward the Beltline,” Daniels says. “There is also the potential to have other, different types of businesses, a greater diversity of businesses within that corridor that we can actually assist with education, training, and being engaged collaboratively with other groups that help economic development in that area.”

The 75,000-square-foot south campus building also will be open to the community for meetings, events, and association activities. It will offer a full menu of student services, including financial literacy, and serve as a seven-day-a-week campus with alternative programming such as weekend college for people who can’t take advantage of course offerings Monday through Friday.

It also promises to be more accessible than the Truax campus. In the past, Daniels has cited the transportation issues faced by south Madison residents who want to enroll in programming at the Truax campus. Even with public transportation, it takes a big chunk of the morning — upwards of two hours — to get there. This location promises to make transportation much less of an issue, and will feature shuttle service back and forth between the two campuses for students to get hands-on technical training in various course offerings.

“If it doesn’t make the transportation issue moot, it will greatly minimize it,” Daniels says. “Right across the street from the new site is the bus terminus. We have a number of buses that move throughout the Madison area that come through that terminus. You still are going to have individuals who want to drive a vehicle, and it’s right there off the Beltline near a busy intersection.”

Board approval

Daniels intends to ask for full approval of these plans before the May meeting of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board. Once approval is granted, Madison College will consummate the sale of the land and start demolition of the existing structure, a former state office building, in June.

The next key date, however, is April 24, when an announcement will be made on fundraising progress at the existing south campus. The overall fundraising goal of $22.8 million includes $2.5 million to secure a grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., but for now Goldberg will only say that the fundraising is on track.

A number of businesses and foundations have stepped up, including American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group Foundation, Exact Sciences, the Goodman Foundation, J.H. Findorff & Son, Magna Publications (the parent of In Business magazine), the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation, and UW Credit Union.

A number of them specifically cited the labor shortage as the motivation for their donations, Goldberg notes, because they prefer to recruit employees from the local area instead of having to go to southeastern Wisconsin or northern Illinois.

In addition, about 200 Madison College employees have made donations even though most of them probably won’t work at the new south campus site.

Goldberg confides that Daniels convinced him to come out of retirement and lead this fundraising effort to change the narrative for the south side, not grow the college. “As much as I admire about what’s happening on East Washington,” he says, “I believe this has an even more profound human impact in addition to the economic impact.”

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