We Energies Foundation gives $2 million to help UWM students graduate

The We Energies Foundation has pledged to give $2 million to the UWM Foundation to help more students graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Three-quarters of the gift will be used to endow programs that enhance student success, such as emergency and retention grants, coaching, staffing and tools for advising. The remaining portion will provide support for scholarships.

“For years, the We Energies Foundation has been a strategic partner to help UWM students achieve their goals,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “I am delighted by this gift because of the critical support it will provide to help students graduate. UWM, like most other universities, experiences a vexing gap between the graduation rates of white students and underrepresented minority students. The We Energies Foundation stepped up to fund scholarships and programs to eliminate that gap and to help more students receive degrees. UWM plays a key role in meeting our state’s workforce needs, and the We Energies Foundation is our valued partner.”

The We Energies Foundation’s gift supports UWM’s Moon Shot for Equity Initiative, an effort to close the gap in college degree achievement and improve the graduation rate for all students by 2030. In 2020 EAB, a national higher education consulting firm, selected UWM along with Milwaukee Area Technical College, UW-Parkside and Carthage College to join the first group of colleges and universities in the country to work regionally to improve college completion rates and eliminate the equity gap. The We Energies Foundation’s current gift builds on a prior $1 million commitment to UWM’s Moon Shot Initiative.

“As a large employer, we know that we will need a diverse and inclusive workforce to help shape the future growth and prosperity of the region. That starts with increasing the diversity of our local college graduates,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman of We Energies parent company WEC Energy Group. “We’re pleased to provide this gift and work with UWM to support first-generation scholars as they take the next step on the path to graduation and success.”

Employer reliance on UWM to fill workforce needs has become more urgent with the adoption of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Region of Choice Initiative. More than 110 companies in southeast Wisconsin have pledged to increase the number of their Black and Hispanic employees by 15% and to increase the number of Black and Hispanic managers by 25%. With the most diverse student body in the UW System, UWM is positioned to help companies fulfill their pledge.

UWM recently implemented some of the Moon Shot for Equity Initiative’s best practices and has already seen improvements, including in the university’s six-year graduation rate, a standard success metric. The gap in six-year graduation rates between underrepresented minority students and non-underrepresented minority students at UWM improved from 17.6% in 2021 to 14.2% in 2022. Additionally, UWM students who received a retention grant were more likely to stay in school, and emergency grants helped students get through a crisis without dropping out. Success coaching has also shown to keep students on track.

“We have learned there are things we can do to make all our students more successful,” UWM Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Kay Eilers said. “But funding those efforts has been beyond our reach. This gift will help us continue to move the needle on this critical goal of improving graduation rates. I appreciate having a partner like the We Energies Foundation as we strive to make our students more successful – in college and beyond.”

In March 2023, UWM received $2.1 million from a group of donors affiliated with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the university aims to continue raising support to improve its students’ success. For more information on supporting the Moon Shot for Equity Initiative, please contact Joan Nesbitt, vice chancellor of university advancement, at nesbitjm@uwm.edu.

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