SOMERS — The University of Wisconsin-Parkside has been awarded a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Education grant to establish a new Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) aimed at helping more of the region’s adults complete four-year college degrees.
The EOC project, being launched this fall, aims to serve 850 participants annually. It will be housed at UW-Parkside’s Center for Adult and Returning Students (CARS). Three full-time employees are being hired by UW-Parkside to staff the center.
The EOC will target adults of working age in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties in Southeast Wisconsin and Lake and McHenry counties in Northeast Illinois. The population-dense target area is home to a high number of residents with low baccalaureate achievement rates who would benefit from such a program. The EOC will give priority to low-income, minority, and veteran adults, as well as first-generation students. The program aims to close existing equity gaps in degree completion, which in turn can help program participants improve their earning potential and career advancement opportunities.
“The EOC at UW-Parkside will equip hundreds of area residents with resources that can bolster their educational achievements, career success, and overall quality of life,” Dana Roders, adult student program manager for Professional and Continuing Education at UW-Parkside, said in a news release. “We’re thrilled for this opportunity to serve our community and make a lasting difference in people’s lives.”
Roders is serving as the EOC project’s coordinator.
UW-Parkside EOC will collaborate with other institutions
The new UW-Parkside EOC will work in partnership with two- and four-year higher education institutions in the region, county workforce development offices, veteran services offices and correctional facilities. The goal is to have participants apply for college admissions and enroll in postsecondary education. Participants without a secondary degree will have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. Partnering institutions include Gateway Technical College, UW-Whitewater and Herzing University.
The need for an EOC to fill the education and skills gaps in the region is well documented. Of the 1.4 million residents in the project’s target area, about 14 percent are low-income, and 62 percent have yet to earn a bachelor’s degree. Of those, 85,645 (8.77 percent) are adults who do not yet have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and 521,561 (53.44 percent) hold a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree, according to 2019 Census and Department of Labor data.
“Education beyond high school has never been more important than it is right now. Employers are struggling to fill much-needed jobs in our community,” said Deann Possehl, UW-Parkside assistant provost for student success. “The EOC program will provide much-needed support for adults in our community interested in pursuing additional education.”
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