Following Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s attendance at a summit on college access in Washington D.C. earlier in January, University of Wisconsin is making efforts to expand outreach to low-income and minority students.
According to an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, Blank promised an expansion of programs and the hiring of new staff to help targeted students. Blank said in the article that she aims to increase financial aid available for students through a fundraising campaign.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul DeLuca said it is important not only to recruit low-income and minority students, but also to keep them in the science major.
“For some reason, we lose students in the biology major to other majors across the campus,” DeLuca said. “Right now we do not know why we are losing students in the stem fields, especially in their junior year.”
Part of the overhaul, DeLuca said, is to create the Institute for Science Education and phase out the Institute of Biology Education. DeLuca said IBE was first created to help students get into the biology major, which was confusing for students in their first two years.
This is no longer a problem for the biology major, DeLuca said, thanks to help from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Letters and Science.
John Lucas, UW Communications spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald that IBE has done its job. Now that it no longer needs to administer directly to students in the biology major, IBE is widening its scope and becoming ISE, he said.
“IBE is expanding outreach activities and enhancing programs to support the success of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and math,” Lucas said.
The funding, DeLuca said, will come from funding previously assigned to IBE. This project is already written into the UW’s budget for this year, he said. ISE was also given an additional $500,000 from the POSSE program, he said.
Blank also said eight to 12 new staffers will be hired to ease the financial-aid application process for low-income and minority students.
The financial aid paperwork forms are “absolutely horrific” and a “real challenge,” DeLuca said. It is important for UW to invest more money in administrative positions to help students understand the financial aid paperwork, he said.
The landscape of student support comes from many different areas, DeLuca said.
“There is a whole spectrum of financial aid. Navigating that for the first time is a challenge,” DeLuca said. “We’re not putting enough resources in that area. I get calls from freshman and their parents all the time.”
The new staffers will be paid by rebudgeting and a fundraising campaign that will begin soon, DeLuca said. He said UW has a big budget and money will be found somewhere.
Blank is committed to raising more funds for financial aid, DeLuca said.
“The only possible way to improve is to create a larger philanthropic base,” DeLuca said. “Details, I don’t have, but I can assure you it is going to be hard.”
Blank was unavailable for comment.