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Nicolet College's dual credit program size nearly doubles in four yearsSubmitted: 04/30/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
lkimble@wjfw.com


RHINELANDER - Paying for college keeps getting harder and harder. Wisconsin schools raised tuition rates pretty much every budget session lately.

That makes finishing school in a timely manner financially important.

Nicolet College in Rhinelander helped start the transcripted credit program four years ago.

Students can earn some college credits while still in high school.

They learn college-level material in their own high school classrooms, taught by their own teachers - all while earning both high school and college credit.

Nicolet College president Elizabeth Burmaster thinks students are up to the challenge.

"It is a college course that is rigorous and demanding," Burmaster said. "But it is offered to high school students, so they have to be ready for it and they have to work hard in order to succeed in any college course."

Nicolet's program began at Rhinelander and Elcho High Schools.

But it's nearly doubled in the last four years, reaching most Northwoods districts.

Students can now get credits in business, accounting, welding and medical fields through Nicolet.

More than 21,000 students statewide take part through local technical colleges.

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The two-day trial for Mark Spietz, 39, of Kaukauna, finished up Thursday afternoon, following a morning of the defense arguing it was all part of Spietz's job.

Spietz was a contract worker for a company called TruAssets, which secures abandoned or foreclosed homes throughout the country. The company is based in Arizona.

On Thursday, Spietz testified that in September and October, he took ATVs, bows, a John Deere tractor, a trailer and Jennifer Ayers' purse from the house to try and secure it for his employer.

"My experience with the work order is that it is our job to make sure the property is secured," Spietz said. "Obviously if I can open the doors and get into it, anybody can open the doors and get into it. So I ended up removing the ATVs with the trailer and them bringing them back to Kaukauna to lock up in my storage facility where they would be under lock and key for the future for whatever the bank decided they wanted to do with their property."

In the criminal complaint, however, Spietz told investigators he took the purse because he thought his wife would like it.

But the state argued Thursday he technically didn't have permission from the company to be at the house after the first visit. Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek presented Spietz with the original work order form TruAssets assigned him. The document specifically stated not to remove any personal property from the house, and that contract workers should submit a bid for the property if they do take it from the house.

Schiek then argued Spietz specifically targeted the empty house because he knew its owners were dead.

"Looking back, what did you think you saw?" Schiek asked Spietz during his cross examination.

"Couple spots on the floor, large, dark spots," Spietz responded.

"Knowing what you know now, do you know what that was?" Schiek asked.

"To the best of my knowledge that's where they were killed," Spietz replied.

Spietz's attorney Brian Bennett said since Spietz is not from the area, he wouldn't have known the homicides happened at the house. He argued there was no sign saying no trespassing, nor had he had any knowledge the house was in probate.

"He used his best judgment based on his experience," Bennett said during his closing argument. "Which makes him quite possibly, if he's a burglar, the worst burglar in the world."

Bennett added Spietz gets little supervision from TruAssets, as Spietz testified he has never met a person from the company.

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Spietz will be sentenced in October. 

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The deal includes the plant in Rhinelander and several facilities in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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