Now that Mother’s Day is over, it’s high
school graduation season! You can hardly drive down the road without
seeing a car window reading “Class of 2017” – fantastic! Graduating
from high school is something every kid and their parents should be
proud of; graduation marks the end of a 13 year journey starting in
kindergarten (now, some start in pre-K or 4K). When all is said and
done, a K-12 journey takes about 2,340 school days and $169,403 per
student (calculation based on the 2014-15 statewide average per pupil
rate of $13,031). The Class of 2016 saw 57,258 high school students
graduate – what awaited them in the next phase of their lives?
For just over half of them, 29,770, a four-year college with
21,446 choosing to attend a University of Wisconsin System (UWS) school.
With costs between $3,700 and $5,210 a semester, a student who finishes
their undergraduate degree in four years will pay somewhere between
$29,600 and $41,680. While a four year degree can be the most costly
option for new high school graduates, in many cases this is good
investment in a student’s future. Winter Commencement 2014 and Spring
Commencement 2015 saw 27,427 students graduate with a four year
undergraduate degree from a UW System school. Career placement after
graduating from a four-year University of Wisconsin System school
varies from campus to campus and from major to major.
Almost a quarter (21%) of the Class of 2016 chose to go to a
technical/vocational school. It’s a solid choice as the Wisconsin
Technical College System (WTCS)
has employment rates for their graduates at 86% or higher for the past
Additionally, in-state tuition at a WTCS school varies between $131 and
$177 per credit (about $2,310 per semester).
Many people who choose to at attend a Wisconsin technical college have
actually already received a degree or taken classes at a four year
college. In fact, 2014-2015 figures show 42,565 WTCS students have taken
some college courses, 17,518 students have earned a bachelor’s degree,
and an additional 8,026 students have more than a bachelor’s degree. On
the flip side of the coin, 3,787 students transferred to a University of
Wisconsin System school from a WTCS school.
Let’s take a moment and talk about Wisconsinites commitment to a strong
K-12 system, University of Wisconsin System, and Wisconsin Technical
College System. In the 2015-17 state budget, 36.7% of the total
$73.3 billion two-year budget went to fund these three systems.
levels are $1.1 billion for the WTCS, $11.9 billion for the UWS, and
$13.3 billion for K-12, each system saw increases over previous funding
In Governor Walker’s 2017-19 budget currently before the Joint Finance
Committee (JFC), each area of state funded education sees an even bigger
two-year budget. The proposed 2017-19 budget increases funding for the WTCS by
$7.7 million, UWS by $237 million, and K-12 by $648.2 million.
Getting back to our 2016 graduates, six percent decided to go straight
into the workforce. With Wisconsin’s current unemployment rate at 3.4%,
1.2% below the national average of 4.5%, they likely found very
Current “hot jobs” in Wisconsin include installation, maintenance and
repair, transportation and material moving, sales and many others.
The military was the destination for 3% of the Class of 2016. These
students have signed up to serve their country and keep America safe by
enlisting in United States Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, and
Marines. God bless each and every one of these students for their
commitment and service.
An additional 1.4% of the graduates listed job training as their future
plans. These students intended to complete a job training program, such
as a youth apprenticeship or registered apprenticeship, and began while
in high school to prepare them for a job in a specialized field.
Fast-forward a year and the Class of 2017 is on the cusp of making those
same important decisions. Most of this Class of 2017 was born in 1999.
Reflect on that for a moment; this class will be the last class born in
the 20th century – I feel old! They never experienced
MC Hammer pants, cell phones as big as bags, or shag carpeting. They
never lived in a world where
“Jump Around” wasn't played during Badger Football games,
where you couldn’t
to find out more information, and they've only seen the
Packers experience two losing seasons
in their whole lives.
As we attend graduation parties for the members of the Class of 2017,
remember that they have a lot of major decisions ahead of them, yet
there’s no better place to make those decisions than in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin is going to need them in our workforce sooner rather than
later. We have to find more ways to match our young people with training
and education in careers available in their field of study. We still
have too many that go on to education only to drop out or dramatically
change their path. Tools to help them make this important life decision
need to be developed. We have too many that take too long to figure it
out or study in majors that don’t prepare them for a particular career.
This is costly to the young person, their family, and there is a
taxpayer cost for our higher education systems, not to mention lost