Madison Area Technical College will buy the soon-to-be-vacated state office building at Park Street and Badger Road, officials announced Monday, and turn the site on the historically underserved South Side into a new campus.

The South Campus Initiative will house degree programs and neighborhood services for 3,000 students per year when it opens in fall 2019, and as many as 5,500 after a planned expansion in ensuing years.

It will also be the home of a new “early college STEM academy” run by MATC and the Madison School District in which 200 high school juniors and seniors will attend classes at the campus full-time, earning college and high school credit.

MATC President Jack E. Daniels told a room full of business, community and government leaders Monday that the college plans to buy what is now the Badger Road State Office Building, home of the state Department of Employee Trust Funds. The department, like several other state agencies, is leaving the office and moving to the massive new Hill Farms complex.

Daniels and others have pitched the initiative as a way for the college — which currently operates a smaller South Madison campus serving 1,000 students each year — to address local racial disparities by bringing a fuller slate of services to residents who may have been left out of Madison’s booming economy.

Transformation seen

The new campus, Daniels said Monday, “will begin to transform the perception of the South Side of Madison from an area of poverty and socio-economic isolation, to a neighborhood that (is) vibrant and progressive.

“The impact of today’s announcements will be proven by a bottom line that can be measured by its influence on the educational, economic and social vitality of South Madison,” Daniels said.

The $12.8 million project will be privately funded, Daniels said, with a $10 million donation from the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Foundation and $1.3 million from the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, plus funding from MATC’s private foundation.

The new campus is the second of two major changes to MATC’s physical presence in Madison.

The college plans to move out of its Downtown Education Center just off the Capitol Square by the end of 2018 and shift its programs either to the new South Side facility or the North Side’s Truax campus. MATC will lease the Downtown site to developers, who plan to build a hotel and office building on the block-sized parcel.

Head start on college

MATC’s new partnership with the school district would start as a pilot program during the 2018-19 school year, with 25 students taking classes at the Truax campus.

Once the South Side facility opens, the program would move there and expand to 200 high school juniors and seniors who would spend their entire school day studying at the college, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

The students would come from all of the district’s high schools, officials said, and the program would work to involve girls and minority students in disciplines where they have typically been underrepresented.

“We know there are enormous opportunities for college and career options in STEM-related fields,” Madison schools Superintendent Jen Cheatham said. “Our students, especially our female students and students of color, need and deserve access to these opportunities. And … students themselves have consistently pointed to STEM as a top area of interest.”

Keith Cornille, the college’s executive vice president of student development and success, said the program’s instructors would come from both MATC and the school district.

The district would pay MATC a per-student cost for classes that are taught by the college’s instructors, Cornille said.

Plans for expansion

MATC’s plans for the South Side campus call for offering two-year degree programs in a robust range of support services — such as financial aid and advising — to keep students on track, Daniels said.

Officials also want to provide financial literacy programs and English-as-a-second-language courses at the campus, among other services meant to benefit surrounding neighborhoods.

“We all need to be bolder, to take more risks, to do better for our young families of color — especially those living here in South Madison,” School Board President James Howard said at Monday’s announcement of the campus site. “This is an example of that kind of action.

“This is a chance for us to get it right for children and for families of color, and to give everyone an opportunity to be successful.”

The campus will have 38,000 to 44,000 square feet of instructional space when it opens.

A planned second phase of the project would add 30,000 more square feet, which would include additional classrooms and community space, Daniels said.

The college is now fundraising for the second phase, he said, and has heard interest from some potential donors.

Daniels estimated the expansion could be complete by 2021 or 2022.

Skeptics of MATC’s plan questioned whether a campus on the South Side would be harder for students who rely on public transportation to reach than the Downtown facility. But Daniels said the site’s location — just off the Beltline and across the street from Metro Transit’s South Transfer Point — was meant to address students’ transportation needs.

The state is selling the office building, which sits at the southwest corner of the Park and Badger intersection, to developer Smith Gilbane. Daniels said the college will buy the site from Smith Gilbane for $2.8 million.

The college has not yet decided whether it will remodel the site’s existing office building or tear it down and construct a facility, Daniels said, but a decision will be announced by the end of this week. The cost of each option is roughly the same, he said.

MATC will need approval from its district board and the state Technical College System board to move forward with the proposal. The district board is set to take up the South Side campus at a meeting next week.

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Nico Savidge is the higher education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.