Bachelor of science degrees in political science and in public administration and policy analysis, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Higher education policy, policymaking processes, state government
Why an MPA?
I have been interested in politics and public service for my whole life. I also took a high school course titled American Public Policy Special Emphasis (APPSE) that allowed me to dive into topics like the evolution of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, contemporary political issues, the philosophers that the country’s values are based on, etc. The teacher was very passionate about this subject and did everything that he could to make sure that students got the most out of the experience. In addition, I served as vice president of UW-Stevens Point’s student government.
Why the La Follette School?
I always wanted to work in the State Legislature, and this is one of the top schools in the country. The Wisconsin Idea, connecting classroom to public service, and the strong focus on quantitative skills also were appealing
A career in the Wisconsin Legislature
How has the La Follette School prepared you to meet this goal?
I am lucky enough to have a boss – State Rep. David Murphy – who values my education at La Follette. He let me have a flexible schedule as I worked full time and took classes part time. My experiences at La Follette make me much better at my job, especially when it comes to analyzing policy, using evidence to create smart public policy, and being a good consumer of research. Often I can take projects, research, and connections from La Follette and apply it to my work.
Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Look for opportunities to apply your work. Network, network, network!
College affordability is a hot topic in politics right now, and my boss wanted to do something that addressed the problem. He gave me some criteria on what he wanted and asked me to come up with ideas. Using my La Follette training, the first thing I did was define the scope of the problem.
It’s common for people to talk about the high levels of debt that an average four-year graduate in Wisconsin has and how student debt has topped over $1 trillion. However, when I dug into the research and literature, my perspective changed.
In fact, a study by La Follette School faculty affiliate Nicholas Hillman looked at the issue differently. He found that it’s not four-year graduates with debt that have difficulty making payments; it is students who go to college, don’t graduate, and have smaller amounts of debt – especially students attending technical schools and two-year colleges.
This made Rep. Murphy’s office look at the problem differently. Instead of targeting the average four-year graduate, we looked for solutions that can help students stay in school – and graduate – so they can get a job and have the earning power to pay back their debt. This resulted in the several bills:
- Wisconsin Grants (Act 281): Benefits over 1,000 technical college students by increasing the needs-based Wisconsin Grants by $1 million in the biennium.
- Emergency Grants (Act 282): Provides $450,000 for emergency grants to keep students in school who experience a financial emergency.
- Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Internship Coordinators (Act 283): Uses existing money to create two positions at DWD to connect employers with Wisconsin universities and create internship opportunities.
- Financial Literacy (Act 284): Requires all higher education institutions to send students an annual letter with information about their loans so they can make better decisions about their financial future.
- AB 739: Eliminate cap on the tax deduction for student loan interest: This would save student loan debt payers about $5.2 million annually by allowing them to deduct all interest paid on student loans.
- AB 743: UW Internship Coordinators: Provide $500,000 for the UW System to create internship coordinators that connect employers with UW institutions and create internship opportunities.
Unfortunately AB 739 and AB 743 did not become law, but the other four bills did and already have begun to benefit students.
The other step in the policy process is program evaluation, so I have kept in contact with the higher education officials to monitor the progress of the programs and make adjustments, if necessary. For instance, in the first couple months of implementing the emergency grant program, the technical colleges reported that 249 students benefited from these grants.
It has been a great experience to be a part of each phase of the process, from the policy analysis stage, policymaking process, policy implementation, and program evaluation. In each step, evidence has helped us create good public policy, and my La Follette training has given me the skills to execute the plan. Now, I am happy to report that these policies have begun to help more students complete their education in Wisconsin.