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April 5, 2004

Simply a ' sign ' of the times ?

From: La Crosse Tribune, WI - Apr 5, 2004

By AUTUMN GROOMS La Crosse Tribune Eric Lewandowski is a student in the wood techniques program at Western Wisconsin Technical College. He also is deaf and uses the school's services to succeed in his classes.

A main source of funding for the deaf and hard of hearing services, as well as the Opportunity Center, student employment services and student financial aid, at WWTC risks being eliminated this summer on the national level.

WWTC was granted $1,038,761 in Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and Technical Education Act funds from July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2004. These funds represent 2.6 percent of the total college operating budget of $40,581,373. WWTC received grant funding through the Wisconsin Technical College System Board based on the number of students who receive Pell and Bureau of Indian Affairs grants.

As a young boy living on a farm in Mauston, Wis., Lewandowski liked to build. There was always something that needed to be constructed or fixed — a tree-house for a tree in need, miscellaneous scraps, or a two-by-four that needed a nail.

The love of building is one of reasons Lewandowski said he entered the wood techniques program at Western Wisconsin Technical College. The other, he said through an interpreter, is for the deaf and hard of hearing services the college offers, including interpreters and note-takers.

Deaf and hard of hearing services at WWTC are totally funded through the Perkins funding and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, said Kris Follansbee, deaf and hard of hearing specialist on campus.

While the college is required to provide services to students with disabilities, Follansbee said, the lack of funding will require the school to eliminate positions and contract out.

"This will cause a lack of consistency for the students," she said.

"If I lose interpreters, it would obviously affect me greatly. I would not be able to understand anything happening in class or do well. I would not be instructed on safety. I cannot loose my fingers. Being I am deaf, they are very important to me," Lewandowski said.

While Lewandowski will graduate from the one-year wood techniques program in May, he is still concerned about the possibility of the funding being eliminated.

"I plan to go to school after May, maybe to get electrician (certification). I definitely plan to come back here," he said.

During Judith Erickson's years at WWTC there have been three reauthorizations of the Perkins funding.

Each time, she said, there have been more cutbacks and different allocations as to how the money can be used.

As the manager of the Opportunity Center, Student Employment Services and Student Financial Aid, Erickson sees the effects of the cuts first hand.

If the funding is eliminated, Erickson's departments would loose positions, having a direct impact on the students served, including the economically and academically challenged, single parent, displaced homemaker, non-traditional student and dislocated worker.

"This funding has been important to a lot of people," Erickson said.

Services for special populations received $797,574 in Perkins funds. WWTC matched $495,000 to bring the total amount for services to special population students to $1,292,574.

The majority of the funds go toward services for special population students including counseling/retention services, $589,826; remedial instruction and tutoring in math, science, reading and English, $298,731; assistance to students with limited English proficiency, $59,331; accommodation services for students with disabilities, $89,443; services for the deaf and hard of hearing, $86,521; and employment services for special population students, $32,092.

Other areas at WWTC that receive Perkins funding include program improvement, $74,226; technical preparation, $121,561; and work-based learning, $45,400.

Autumn Grooms can be reached at (608) 782-9710, ext. 357, or

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