Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'09 grad turns to crafting education programs

Figuring out how to pay for college can be enough of a challenge for a high school student, but covering the costs for every graduate from all of a district's high schools could seem insurmountable — or an exciting opportunity.

Having just completed a Master of Public Affairs degree at the La Follette School, Beth Stransky Vaade finds herself taking on the second challenge: how to design an educational program that promises to make college affordable for every student who graduates from a Racine high school.

She and her colleagues at the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) are collaborating with the City of Racine, the Racine Unified School District and the Johnson Foundation to design the Racine Promise, a program that would offer scholarships for graduates from Racine high schools to complete postsecondary education. Still in the planning stage, this program aims to build a stronger community through increasing educational attainment among Racine students. "The Racine Promise compliments WISCAPE's recent work on postsecondary opportunity programs throughout the country," Vaade says.

The Monday after graduation, Vaade started full-time as a policy analyst with WISCAPE at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She worked as a project assistant with WISCAPE since 2004, when she enrolled at the university to start work on a master's degree in educational policy, which she completed in 2006. "From working with La Follette students, I knew that the program would give me a strong foundation of skills for work in public policy," Vaade says. "La Follette offered the opportunity to examine a variety of current issues and approaches to analysis and evaluation that will be vital to my job."

In addition to working out the details of the Racine Promise, Vaade will be the principal investigator for an assessment of AVID/TOPs, a collaborative partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. The program prepares students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility and help make college affordable. She will lead the WISCAPE team working with AVID/TOPs staff and the school district to help understand the program's progress toward its goals.

Vaade also serves as a WISCAPE liaison to the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, which works with its 12-member states in conducting policy analysis and research; sponsoring programs to reduce educational costs; and increasing student access to higher education.