Madison College president Jack E. Daniels III formally recommended that the college move out of downtown and establish a full-scale campus on Madison’s south side, a recommendation endorsed by many leaders in Madison’s communities of color.

Speaking before the Madison College District Board Wednesday, Daniels cited declining enrollment at the Downtown Education Center, or DTEC, as well as looming renovation costs that could rise to $30 million. Additionally, Daniels said Madison College’s overall mission requires a commitment to underserved populations, which disproportionately live on the South Side.

Madison College’s Downtown Education Center, or DTEC, could require up to $30 million in renovations, according to college president Jack E. Daniels III.

Rather than sell the downtown campus, as was previously proposed, Daniels told the board that he recommends a “ground lease” that could provide significant income.

“This is an asset. The asset is the land,” he said of the Downtown Education Center, or DTEC. “Maintain the asset and let it work for the institution.”

He estimated that moving out of DTEC could save $900,000 per year in operating costs, and the lease could bring in another $900,000 per year. Additionally, he estimated that moving out of DTEC would save up to $30 million in needed renovations to the aging downtown building.

Additionally, the move would allow for what Daniels calls “a South Madison Initiative,” which would fulfill the college’s mission. Daniels recommended extending the lease at the college’s current Villager Mall location on South Park Street through 2017 and seeking to lease or purchase a larger property on the South Side for a permanent academic location.

“The focus is not what happens at DTEC or in South Madison,” Daniels said. “The focus is, what is our mission? The investment is in people. Our mission is to provide academic access. We will do with with a clearly defined South Madison initiative.”

Citing high poverty and low educational achievement in the area south of the Beltline and between Stoughton Road and Gammon Road, Daniels said the population there needs easier access to educational opportunity — and the neighborhood could use a boost.

“If we expand our academic programming to this community, there is a distinct possibility and probability that the quality of life and economic development will increase,” Daniels told the board.

Additionally, a south side campus would help fulfill an overall effort on the part of the college to serve a more diverse population.

“The college has served well, for 100 years, the majority population,” Daniels said. “However, the population of people of color and other underrepresented populations do not take full advantage of Madison College, nor have we made a consistent effort to meet their needs.”

Calling Madison College a “comprehensive community college,” now reaching beyond its roots as a purely technical college, Daniels said the college should serve people where they are.

“Location is key,” said Daniels. “Especially for people with transportation issues, they have to juggle what little money they actually have.”

Daniels’ recommendation has support among Madison’s communities of color.

Kaleem Caire, founder of One City Early Learning Center
Kaleem Caire

“This absolutely should happen,” said Kaleem Caire, founder and CEO of One City Early Learning and chair of the board that oversees Wright Middle School. “We need to look further than the reasons that have been given thus far for why South Madison should indeed be the home to a new Madison College Campus. Not since the South Madison community was developed in the 1960s has there been a significant enough initiative that could spur long needed economic and community transformation along the Park Street corridor. Madison College’s Board of Directors won’t be relocating a campus, the’ll be investing in the hopes and dreams of three generations of South Madisonians who have wanted their town to mean more than the color, limited incomes and challenges of its neighborhoods and residents.”

We’re fully in support of the possibility of having a larger presence here (on the South Side). It’s really important,” said Karen Menendez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano on Badger Rd. “There’s just the need to make it known that there’s a strong commitment to become an educational hub of sorts to the south side. That sends a message, more than anything. I know Dr. Daniels is very community-oriented. I think his approach would be a good one.”

“I’m very supportive,” said Urban League of Greater Madison CEO Ruben Anthony. “When you look at all the demographics, (the south side) is probably the best place to have the most impact. There’s a lot of upside there. I think Dr. Daniels is engaging, listening, and has come to this decision after doing his due diligence. I think he is to be applauded.”

The Madison College board deadlocked on a similar proposal a year ago, and will vote on this proposal on May 4. Madison College students and other community members will have several opportunities to voice their opinions on the proposal in the weeks leading up to the vote, at one of the forums listed below:

  • April 12, 3 – 4 pm Student Forum, DTEC Room D240
  • April 12, 6 – 8 pm Community Forum, DTEC Room D240
  • April 13, 2 – 3:30 pm Student Forum, Truax Room C2402
  • April 14, 6 – 8  pm Community Forum, Fountain of Life Community Church Sanctuary Room
  • April 20, 4:30 – 6:30 pm Special Board Meeting and Public Comment Session, Truax Main Building B3243/B3253