By Brian E. Clark
The nation may be headed toward a recession, but for many rural and inner city Wisconsin communities, it’s already here – and then some.
That’s why Madison’s Edgewood College may soon launch a new degree program to focus on rural and urban economic development, Business School Dean Charles Taylor said Tuesday at a luncheon sponsored by WisBusiness.com, Madison Magazine and the Madison Club.
“Students from those areas are leaving in droves,” said Taylor, who called the effort his “passion.”
“We need to train a new generation to transform depressed inner cities and rural areas… and combat the economic disparities that are widening along racial and class lines.”
“Most of our students are from rural Wisconsin,” he said. “And most will never go home again once they get their degrees because they believe there are no jobs and limited opportunities for them to earn a living.
“Rural Wisconsin is losing its future leaders and the same is true for the few we get from the inner cities,” he added.
Taylor said the private, Dominican college is ideally suited to create a rural and urban economic development program because of its tradition of service. But he said it will continue to offer a traditional business curriculum while developing this new area of study and research that would ultimately return students to their homes and get entrepreneurial ideas and jobs into areas that have declined in recent decades.
“This could have a tremendous, positive impact on our state,” he said, holding up the economic develop work of former basketball star and businessman Magic Johnson in the Watts area of Los Angeles.
Taylor, who is black, said he also hoped to recruit more students of color to the campus, where minority enrollment is less than 9 percent.
He said he and other university official are reaching out to the Dane County business community to build bridges and also raise money for the new degree program and scholarships.
He said tuition at the school, which now runs $18,000 a year, means that many students of limited means cannot attend.
Taylor – an author, playwright and documentary producer – said Edgewood students are trained to give back to their communities and all business students are required to do civic internships.
He also noted that Edgewood graduates tend to stay in Wisconsin, with the college boasting a retention rate of 70 percent in the Badger State.
For more information on Edgewood, go to http://www.edgewood.edu/