An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Milwaukee

by Jennifer Croley
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Milwaukee

Centrally located on Lake Michigan's western shore, Milwaukee is a thriving city with a strong business, educational, recreational, and cultural base. The city serves as the center of the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area. Comprising Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties, the Milwaukee metro area is the nation's 36th largest and is home to over 1.5 million people.

A city that easily blends old with new and traditional with trendy, Milwaukee offers its residents and visitors a comfortable feel and long list of amenities. Charming neighborhoods and scenic parks blend seamlessly with the city's busy, lakefront downtown. A favorable cost of living, good schools, and high personal income rates add to the list of reasons why so many people proudly call Milwaukee home.

Residents and visitors alike enjoy Milwaukee's endless list of events and attractions. The city's strong arts community supports a ballet company, symphony orchestra, and several acting companies. Its cultural attractions also feature an impressive list of museums including the Milwaukee Art Museum. Long recognized within the city and state for its art collections, the museum recently made international headlines with a Calatrava-designed addition that was recognized by Time Magazine as the top architectural achievement of 2001.

Sports fans will appreciate Milwaukee's variety of arenas and teams. Featuring a retractable roof, state-of-the-art Miller Park ensures there are no rainouts for the National League Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. The Bradley Center downtown serves as home to the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team and the Milwaukee Admirals hockey franchise, while the Milwaukee Wave indoor soccer club plays at nearby U.S. Cellular Arena.

The city also has much to offer to those who want to play sports or just enjoy the outdoors. Tennis facilities and golf courses are easy to locate within the metro area, and golfers should be sure to add Brown Deer to their list of courses to play. It is the only public course on which a major PGA tournament is played. For those who like to take to the water, Milwaukee offers 33 miles of inland water and 49 miles of Great Lakes coastline.

Going to School in Milwaukee

Milwaukee's population is well educated, with 27% of the metro area's 25 year old and over population having a bachelor's degree or higher compared to the state and national figures of 22.4% and 24.4% respectively. These high educational attainment rates reflect the number of great higher education options found in the area.

With individual enrollment ranging from 350 to over 25,000 students, Milwaukee's 17 higher education institutions enroll nearly 90,000 students and grant over 14,000 degrees and certificates each year.

Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) are two of the area's most recognized and largest schools. School choices in Milwaukee include eight four-year colleges, two two-year colleges, and two specialty graduate schools.

The Milwaukee area also features three vocational education institutions, including the largest technical college in the state, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). Offering 199 diplomas, certificates, apprenticeships, and degrees and more than 200 transfer options, MATC serves over 56,000 students annually.

Jim Walsh, interim provost of MATC, encourages students to consider what a technical college has to offer that traditional institutions may not. "Technical colleges like MATC offer a great deal of hands-on technical training in a vast number of fields. Students enter the job market with very specific job skills so they can be productive workers immediately upon starting their careers," notes Walsh.

Walsh also points out that technical colleges are acutely connected to area businesses. "Each educational program at MATC has an advisory board made up of representatives from related business and industry. Their input helps to ensure that MATC is meeting the current and future needs of employers."

Higher education institutions in the Milwaukee area include the following:

Choosing a school is a personal decision – one that students ultimately must make on their own. Beth Weckmueller, Director of Enrollment Services for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, notes that there are many ways to get a good education in the Milwaukee area. "From classic, private colleges to large, diverse universities, Milwaukee has a wide array of higher education options," says Weckmueller.

With so many opportunities, choosing the right school can be a daunting task, but Weckmueller encourages students to focus on finding the right fit based on their needs, wants, and interests. "Start the college search process by asking yourself questions. What do I want from a school? What am I interested in? What kind of environment am I comfortable in? Use your answers to help narrow down the choices," advises Weckmueller.

She also recommends that students visit schools they are interested in before making a final decision. "Typically, visiting the college campus is the most important thing for students to help seal the deal, or not," notes Weckmueller. "I advise prospective students to spend a good amount of time on campus, not just stop by for thirty minutes. Spend a day at the school. Walk around. Hang out in the dining area. Talk to other students. All of these things will help you determine if the school would be a good fit for you."

Once prospective students have narrowed down their list of choices, the next step is for them to complete the application process and hopefully get accepted to the school of their choice. According to Weckmueller, the number one thing students can do to help them get into the college of their choice is take the strongest possible curriculum they can in high school. "Grades are of course important, but it's definitely not just about the grades," says Weckmueller.

"Admissions offices look beyond GPAs and place more emphasis on the balance between what courses students took and how they did in them. We want to know if students took classes that were a stretch for them. Did they take an extra math class or include honors classes in their schedule?"

Weckmueller also points out that taking a strong curriculum in high school will help students beyond the admissions process. "Because there is a strong correlation between academic preparation in high school and eventual success in college, good course choices in high school will benefit students throughout their college career," remarks Weckmueller.

Once they are ready to apply to schools, Weckmueller advises students to take control of the application process. "Do everything you can to put yourself in the driver's seat," says Weckmueller. "That includes completing applications on time, or early if possible, following instructions completely, and paying attention to details. When and how you complete your applications not only affects admissions, but can also have a major impact on your opportunity for scholarships and financial aid."


Another consideration for students is how they will pay for their higher education. The cost to attend school in Milwaukee varies depending on the institution.

Tuition and fees at private Marquette University will exceed $23,000 for the 2005-2006 academic year. Public universities in the area tend to have lower tuition and fees with Wisconsin residents paying just over $5,800 in tuition and fees at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UMW) during 2004-2005. However, as it does throughout the country, residency status makes a difference in cost at Milwaukee's public universities with non-resident students at UMW paying just over $18,500 in tuition and fees during 2004-2005.

Financial Aid

For most students, the amount of financial aid they receive from a school will be a more important factor than cost alone. For example, although Marquette University is a more expensive option than the public universities in the Milwaukee area, more than 90% of first-year students at Marquette receive financial aid.

Whether attending a private or public university, financial aid for most students will come in the form of a grant, scholarship, loan, or a combination of these three. To apply for aid, most students will need to start the process by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Completing the FAFSA will put students in line for federal aid. It is also required by many state and school aid programs. Students can find more information about the FAFSA and complete the application online at FAFSA on the Web.

Other general financial aid resources available online include FinAid!, The Student Guide, and Mapping Your Future. Students interested in attending school in Milwaukee may also want to visit COMPASS Guide. The site features Milwaukee's first searchable database of local scholarship information.

School financial aid offices are also great resources for information on financial aid availability at the federal, state, and institutional level.

Employment in Milwaukee

Milwaukee has a strong corporate base with a workforce of over 800,000. Over 50 Fortune 1000 companies have significant operations in the area. Johnson Controls, Inc., Kohl's Corp., Harley-Davidson, Inc., Briggs & Stratton Corp., and ten other Fortune 1000 companies also call Milwaukee home.

Milwaukee's economy has a strong manufacturing background. This is reflected in the area's workforce rates with 16.1% of the area's workforce employed in manufacturing compared to the national average of just 10.9%.

Brewing has also played a strong role in Milwaukee's economy. One of the country's largest beer producers, Miller Brewing, still operates in Milwaukee, and although brew pubs and specialty brewers have replaced some of the city's original brewing companies, brewing is still intertwined in the city's economic and cultural history.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Milwaukee's economy started moving more and more toward service producing instead of goods producing. Following this trend, many of the area's newest business developments are advanced technology companies such as Sensient Technologies and Rockwell Automation. Milwaukee also serves as a financial center, and is particularly well known for investment management and mutual funds. Wisconsin's largest banking organization, Marshall & Ilsley Corp., and the nation's fifth largest life insurer, Northwestern Mutual, are both headquartered in Milwaukee.

Those seeking employment in Milwaukee will benefit from the area's low unemployment rates that averaged .9% less than the national average from 1995 to 2004. This consistently low unemployment rate is attributable to the area's industrial diversity.

Job seekers will also appreciate Milwaukee's high personal income rates. In 2003, the area's per capita personal income reached $35,133. This is 11.6% higher than the national average and ranks Milwaukee 35th among 361 metropolitan areas.


Along with great higher education opportunities, the Milwaukee area offers students comfortable living, fun attractions, and good job prospects.

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