Last year, Blackhawk Technical College President Tracy Pierner predicted 2019 would be the year the college “bottomed out” on performance-based funding.
It didn’t happen.
Performance and funding improved, but Pierner wants to see growth in all areas, and perhaps more importantly, he wants the college’s enrollment to rise.
Since the 2014-15 school year, a percentage of funding for technical colleges has been based on performance criteria such as job placement, dual credits, the number of students making the successful transition from basic education course to two- or four-year colleges.
Here’s the catch: Funding is based on a three-year rolling average, meaning the amount the college gets now is based on decisions made before the tenure of the current president began.
Last year, the college lost about $138,000 in state funding. This year, it lost about $100,000.
Some of the highlights from Blackhawk Technical College include:
- Job placement after graduation: Based on a three-year rolling average, 83.8 percent of students were employed in fields of their choice within six months of graduation. That puts Blackhawk first out of four similarly sized technical colleges and second out of all 16 colleges. It’s also up from last year’s score of 79.9 percent.
- Industry-validated curriculum: Blackhawk was last among all 16 schools. Last year’s numbers were not available.
Pierner said the school faces some challenges in this category. In the past, Blackhawk made the decision not to create “embedded programs” at the same rate as other schools, Pierner said. Embedded programs allow students to earn technical diplomas and certificates before they graduate.
That means if they drop out before finishing a two-year degree, they’ll have something they can take with them into the job market.
For example, in the new electromechanical technology program at Blackhawk, students can graduate with an industrial maintenance mechanic technical diploma before getting a two-year associate degree.
Pierner said the college is working on developing more embedded diplomas, but it’s going to be “a while before we’re more on par with other colleges.”
- Success rate for adults in basic education: Success is measured by educational gains on standardized tests, and the number of students who transition to a two-year or four-year college.
The three-year rolling average for students demonstrating educational gains was just over 50 percent. That places Blackhawk first out of similarly sized schools and fourth out of all 16 technical colleges.
Blackhawk had 591 students transfer from basic education to postsecondary education. That’s more than any other school it’s size. It’s also more than six other, much larger, schools.
“We’re one of the top performers in the state in this area,” Pierner said. “We have a very good program, and we have great instructors, and we have great results.
- Number of dual enrollment credits: Dual enrollment allows high school students to get college credit while still in high school.
The three-year rolling average shows Blackhawk awarded more than 20,000 dual enrollment credits. That puts it first among colleges its size and tenth out of all 16 colleges. That’s also up significantly from last year’s rolling average of 14,000 credits.
“We do really well in this area, too,” Piener said. “Our high school partners are teaching our courses in their schools.”
- Number of students in special populations, such as students who are of color, veterans, in jail, displaced workers and low income.
Based on a three-year rolling average, Blackhawk educated 23,040 such students. That places Blackhawk third amount similarly sized schools.
Pierner said he’s proud that the school boasts a higher percentage of students of color than the community as a whole.
“From that standpoint, we feel pretty good about that,” Pierner said. “But, as I told my team, if we’re resting on our laurels on that one, we’re resting on the wrong ones. I think those numbers look good percentage-wise because we’re not recruiting enough students of all types.”