UW’s Long-term College Prep Program Puts Prospects In The Pipeline

The Wisconsin State Journal discusses the college prep program UW sponsors for middle (Madison students only) and high school minority students.
Glaringly absent from the reporting is what are the criteria for getting accepted into this program. It sounds like a program open only to minority students, or is it for low-income students of color?
While it has barely been in existence long enough to produce college graduates, I would hope someone is studying PEOPLE’s effectiveness. For instance, I’d like to see a control group who can’t attend these summer sessions but who are given the same break on admission, (2.75 GPA is all that’s required), and if accepted at UW, the students also get a full five-year tuition scholarship. Then I’d like to see the numbers on those who graduate and in what time period and at what cost.
Many years ago while I was a UW zoology grad student, I was a paid tutor through a university program aimed at assisting minority students. All my students were from Milwaukee. None was prepared, either for the intro zoo course or for college in general. Thus, I am sympathetic to the idea of helping these students before they enroll at the university. However, I have to question the lowered admission requirements. If you can’t cut a 2.75 in high school, you’re not likely to successfully complete a degree at UW-Madison.
In addition, I noticed that two of the students interviewed in the article were from Madison West. Is MMSD so deficient in preparing its (low income) minority students that they can only hope to succeed with this special program? I can understand how students coming from poorly funded and troubled disticts like Milwaukee might need extra attention, but Madison West?
Moreover, I know students at West who did not get in to UW despite GPAs of 3.6 and higher. This is the best education many can afford for their children. To learn that their students cannot get admitted while some are allowed in with significantly lower requirments and paid summer college prep courses might be a bitter pill to swallow. (For the record, both our children were accepted at UW.)
So I have two questions: are there checks in place to determine whether this is an effective program, and cost-effective at that, given the 5+ million dollars expended on about 1200 individuals; and how does the UW legitimately justify employing markedly different admission criteria, especially if PEOPLE isn’t open to all students who wish to participate.

Uw’s Long-term College Prep Program Puts Prospects In The Pipeline
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Karen Rivedal Wisconsin State Journal
Raymond McCurty-Smith was a high school freshman in Milwaukee when he first heard about UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program from a teacher in his honors English class.
He said he understood immediately what it could mean to him and his family — what a great deal he could get with a full-tuition scholarship if he finished the program and kept up his grades. The program helps disadvantaged and minority youth prepare for college and, preferably, enroll at UW-Madison as freshmen.
“It was funny because I was already thinking of going to UW-Madison, and that decided it,” said McCurty-Smith, 17, who will start his senior year of high school this fall. “It was just such a good opportunity.”
But last week, as he finished the program’s third and final summer session on campus and looked forward to enrolling at UW-Madison in a year, McCurty-Smith counseled against anyone doing it just for the payoffs — the scholarship and the $1,000 check that he and the other participants will receive in lieu of wages they could have earned working a regular job this summer.
“It’s a really good program if you are determined to come to UW-Madison and you’re determined to work,” he said, adding that not everyone in the program had such noble motives, in his opinion. “The goofers in class are easy to pick out, just here for the money.”
For diversity
The PEOPLE program — the acronym stands for Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence — was launched in 1999 as part of Plan 2008, UW-Madison’s plan to improve diversity on the mostly white campus. Through 2003, all 226 completing the program had graduated from high school, with 96 percent going on to college and nearly half of those choosing UW-Madison.
“I’m pleased with that,” said Walter Lane, an assistant dean in the School of Education who leads PEOPLE. “Hopefully this trend will continue to go upward.”
The university spent nearly $3 million last year on the program, which so far has produced 117 UW-Madison undergraduates, including 41 students who will be freshmen this fall. To get the scholarship, those freshmen also must complete an eight-week summer program of classes for credit designed to further prepare them for college.
An additional 952 students are involved in some earlier stage of the program, which can include after-school classes on study skills and tutoring in reading, writing, math, science and foreign languages.
Summer sessions, all on campus, include academic classes, field trips, campus orientations, cultural activities and, for the oldest students, internships in local companies and organizations. Enrollment in these summer sessions has jumped from 139 pre-college students to more than 800.
UW-Madison officials view the program as a success, noting it will take time to build up the college numbers.
“Given the young people now in the pipeline, there’s no question that the number of students enrolling at UW-Madison will continue to grow exponentially,” said Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for administration. “The investment is starting to pay off.”
`A good experience’
On Friday, McCurty-Smith and 122 others were recognized for finishing the program at a banquet in the Kohl Center moderated by top university officials and corporate sponsors. Proud parents at separate tables packed the room, some of them beaming their relief and joy in broad smiles and high praise for the program.
“It’s been a good experience,” said Joann Johnson, whose daughter, Madison West High School student Renita Paris, was among the honorees. Paris, who will be a senior this fall, started the program when she was in middle school, an option available only in Madison.
“It helps a lot of children start thinking about their future earlier than they would have before and in a consistent way,” Johnson said. “They start getting excited that, yes, they can go to college.”
Like several other parents interviewed at the event, Johnson said Paris would be the first one in her family to go to college, and probably would not be able to do it without the scholarship money.
Another program finisher, Madison West’s Phouthaphone Maly, also said the money was important, but she liked the program primarily for something else. Coming to campus every summer for the past several years has helped her meet officials and develop a social network of other mostly minority students in the program.
“I met a lot of people who will help me through college,” Maly said.
Every PEOPLE graduate who enrolls at UW-Madison gets free tuition for up to five years, but not every graduate who applies gets in, said Carlos Reyes, an admissions officer. This fall, for example, about 80 program finishers applied for admission, but only about 50 were accepted; of those, 41 enrolled and will be freshmen this fall.
Students in PEOPLE must maintain at least a 2.75 grade-point average in high school and meet UW-Madison’s entrance requirements, officials said. Reasons that some program finishers aren’t accepted include the same things that keep out regular applicants, Reyes said, such as slacking off senior year, getting bad grades or not taking rigorous enough classes.
McCurty-Smith’s mother, Jacquise Smith of Milwaukee, said her son seemed to learn a lot in the program. He especially liked the business experience he got by working at American Family Insurance as part of the six-week program this summer. Other internships are offered in fields including social work, pharmacy, education, nursing, computer programming, theater and law.
“He loved his internship,” Smith said. “He really wants to attend UW-Madison, and I want him to as well.”
Program expanding
High school students in the program must attend multi-week summer sessions after their freshman, sophomore and junior years of high schools. In Madison, high-school students also must complete various offerings during the school year.
The program began with 65 students from Milwaukee, later expanding to Madison, Racine, Waukesha and the Ho-Chunk, Lac Courte Oreilles and Menomonee Indian nations.
In 2000, a slate of middle-school offerings was added in Madison — program officials say they don’t have the money to expand it elsewhere — and this fall an elementary-school program will start on Madison’s northeast side around Northport Drive and Packers Avenue. That new offering, known as PEOPLE Prep, is designed to prepare children as early as second grade for the middle-school program.
The entire PEOPLE program now includes 500 high school students, 497 middle schoolers and 55 in grades two through six, plus the 117 undergraduates. A few hundred faculty members and staff from across campus help teach it, and the program provides professional development for high school teachers from the Milwaukee area during summer training sessions.
Over the past two years, UW-Madison has spent about $5.76 million for PEOPLE, including almost $600,000 in gifts, with similar amounts in the previous years, Bazzell said. The SBC Foundation is the program’s oldest and biggest private contributor, with donations totaling nearly $1 million since 1999.
Contact Karen Rivedal at krivedal@madison.com or 252-6106.