Wisconsin Universities Plan Major Reorganization To Preserve Viability

Oct 11, 2017

The University of Wisconsin System would merge each of its 13 two-year campuses with a four year institution under a plan unveiled Wednesday by UW System President Ray Cross.

The UW-Rock County two-year campus in Janesville, for example, would become part of the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater under the restructuring plan.

The plan also would put the state’s public broadcasting networks under the auspices of the UW System administration.

The proposal, to be presented to the University Board of Regents at its November meeting, also would assign divisions of the UW-Extension to the flagship campus at Madison and to the UW System Administration.

UW System President Ray Cross

“We want to leverage the strength of our four-year institutions at a time when overall enrollments at UW Colleges are declining,” Cross said in a news release announcing the plan. “Our goal is to expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported.”

Cathy Sandeen, Chancellor for UW Colleges and Extension, said the UW System has been working to maintain the viability of the small campuses around the state in light of declining student population.

Dr. Cathy Sandeen
Credit uwc.edu

“I am optimistic about the potential of this new structure to keep student access and student success at the forefront,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure the successful future for these campuses, because we need more doors open wider to more people in this state than ever before.”

Under the plan, more general education and upper-level courses would be offered at the integrated “branch campuses,” which would maintain affordability by continuing current tuition levels for general education courses after the merger.

Another goal would be to get more students into and through the educational pipeline to meet Wisconsin’s projected workforce needs. One factor would be to identify and reduce barriers to transferring credits within the UW System.

“Change often produces uncertainty, but we cannot be afraid to pursue needed reforms,” Cross said. “We must restructure these two organizations given the state’s demographic challenges, budgetary constraints, and the need for closer alignment between research and practice.”

Cross cited demographic projections that nearly 95 percent of total population growth in Wisconsin will be age 65 and older by 2040, while those of working age (18-64) will increase less than half a percent.

The proposed restructuring will allow the UW System to better address current and projected enrollment and financial challenges at the two-year institutions. Cross said his proposal will help avoid closing any two-year campus and maintain the UW presence in local communities.

This graphic illustrates the UW System reorganization plan proposed by President Ray Cross.
Credit wisconsin.edu

Here’s how the plan would merge the two-year UW colleges with four-year institutions:

Under the proposed plan, administration of the UW-Extension Cooperative Extension (including Wisconsin 4-H) and the UW-Extension Conference Centers, would be moved to UW-Madison, which is consistent with the practice in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. It would also provide more opportunities to connect practical work of extension agents with the research at UW-Madison.

The Division of Business and Entrepreneurship; Broadcasting and Media Innovations, including Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio; and Continuing Education, Outreach and E-learning, including UW Flexible Option and UW Colleges Online would be integrated within UW System Administration to continue their statewide role.