The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Washington County campus is set to close to in-person classes in June. (UW-Milwaukee)
Two more University of Wisconsin System branch campuses are set to close to in-person instruction at the end of the academic year, system President Jay Rothman announced Tuesday.
Rothman announced that the Washington County campus of UW-Milwaukee and the Fond du Lac County campus of UW-Oshkosh will no longer hold in-person classes after June of next year. He also announced the official closing of the campus in Richland County — which stopped holding classes last spring.
The announcement marks the continued decline of Wisconsin’s two-year colleges, which have seen dwindling enrollment and investment in recent years. When the closure of the Richland campus was announced, local officials, residents and campus staff blamed a prior decision by system leadership to consolidate the branch campuses under the control of the larger four year schools.
In a news release, Rothman said the long-term viability of the two year campuses needs to be assessed.
“It’s time for us to realign our branch campuses to current market realities and prepare for the future. The status quo is not sustainable,” Rothman said. “This decision is a response to an evolving student marketplace. Offering students an educational experience they deserve while working with local leaders to ensure it meets their expectations is key to our long-term success.”
He added that the reason for the closures is not cost savings but student decisions to attend the state’s four-year universities or take classes online.
Last fall, the most recent data available, enrollment at the Washington County campus was 332, down from a record high of 1,117 in 2010. Enrollment at Fond du Lac County last fall was 258. In 2010, enrollment on the campus was the second-highest ever at 794.
When its closure was announced last fall, enrollment at the campus in Richland County had dropped to 60 students.
Rothman said the chancellors overseeing the remaining 10 branch campuses should discuss the future of those campuses with local officials. On the branch campuses, the county government owns the infrastructure while the system funds the salaries of faculty and staff.
“We want to work with the counties to determine the best way for our universities to serve their communities,” Rothman said. “This reassessment is designed to ensure facilities are used in ways that meet community needs and provide long-term stability.”
Rothman said the possible options for the existing campuses could include offering four-year and graduate degrees, workforce development, dual enrollment and programs for high school and nontraditional students.
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone said in a news release that Washington County students will be able to attend the main campus in Milwaukee or the branch campus in Waukesha County and that the university will be expanding its partnership with Moraine Park Technical College.
“We know that it will feel like a loss to alums who earned their degree at the Washington County campus,” Mone said. “We remain committed to students in Washington County, which is why we plan to strengthen our partnership with Moraine Park Technical College based on demand and interest.”
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