Technical colleges make a difference for many

Benjamin Pierce, Managing Editor

My senior year of high school was a constant barrage of questions about my future and college plans. Every time I was asked these questions, my response was the same. There was an awkward pause, and my face would turn crimson red.

“Oh, just technical college for now,” I would sheepishly respond.

I was embarrassed to admit I wasn’t headed to a prestigious four-year university straight out of high school like most of my peers. It bothered me throughout my entire senior year, and the harrowing embarrassment bled into my first day of classes at Western Technical College (WTC) in La Crosse.

It took some getting used to, but I am proud to say I went to a technical college before a university. I am all the better because of that experience.

At first I thought my education would suffer because I wasn’t at a “real” college. I learned very quickly that this was a foolish worry.

Some of the best professors I’ve ever had worked at WTC. My education didn’t suffer at a technical college—it flourished.

The best example I can think of involves my former math professor Barb Stanke. She is a world-class professor. She taught some of the toughest courses offered by the college, but she was always willing to put in the extra time with students to help them through it.

On our first day of class with Barb, there weren’t enough seats for the more than 30 students. The class was so difficult that a lot of people dropped it. We finished with fewer than 10 students.

There were plenty of other examples of professors and staff going above and beyond their duties on that technical college campus alone. It wasn’t a four-year institution, but it was a really good college.

With the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater merging with the University of Wisconsin-Rock County, there is an expanded focus lately among technical colleges in the community. The university recently announced that there will be a full-time liaison between the colleges thanks to a donation. The students at UW-Rock County are just as important as those here at UW-Whitewater, and the university show that with this commitment.

There might not be as many buildings on campus. There may not be as many students. But the education offered at a technical college is quality.

In some cases, technical colleges place talented individuals directly into the workforce through various programs and initiatives. I’ve heard plenty of times the misconception that having an education only from a tech school is bad for your future.

Having an associate’s degree and not a bachelor’s degree is actually smarter for some.

The workforce needs people who are willing to do the hard, gritty work. The jobs that require more than just 40 hours a week and oftentimes include weekend work. I’m talking about a number of jobs including technicians, construction workers and some jobs in the medical industry.

These jobs are important. They, and the people who hold these positions, keep the community going. Without them we wouldn’t be as strong. Regardless of the school they went to or the number of years they spent before getting a degree, they have substantial value.

But it’s not just about that aspect of it. I didn’t get a degree from WTC. I spent two years there before transferring to a university, and man did it make a difference. I saved so much money by doing so, and I got the same level of education. There are plenty of people who take the same route.

It used to bother me deeply to admit I spent two years at a technical college. But today when someone asks me where I went to school I smile, and the response is pretty simple.

Attending Western Technical College was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.