I didn’t realize that demand had shrunk that much.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin System’s two-year schools would merge with its four-year campuses under a plan system President Ray Cross announced Wednesday in hopes of boosting flagging enrollment.
The plan calls for making the system’s 13 two-year schools open regional branches of the 13 four-year schools. Students would still be able to earn associate degrees but they would bear the name of the four-year school. Students would get a wider range of courses to choose from and be able to take third- and fourth-year courses at the branch campus.
For example, two-year school UW-Barron County would cease to exist. Its buildings, faculty and staff would become a branch of UW-Eau Claire. Students who attend the branch campus would earn associate degrees from UW-Eau Claire and could complete four-year degrees through UW-Eau Claire.
The plan is designed to combat declining enrollment at the two-year schools and keep them open. According to a news release from the university system announcing the plan, enrollment at the schools has dropped 32 percent since 2010, costing the schools tuition and fees.
What’s more, system officials fear the number of college-age students will shrink over the next 20 years as Wisconsin’s population ages. The number of people in the state ages 65 to 84 is expected to increase by more than 90 percent by 2040, according to projections from UW-Milwaukee.
“The dramatic demographic declines in this state are undeniable and we have been working hard to ensure the future viability and sustainability of our small campuses,” Cathy Sandeen, UW Colleges and Extension chancellor, said in the news release.
As a taxpayer-funded public institution, that seems like exactly the wrong focus. If demand is shrinking and the public is moving away from the colleges, then close them down and rein in spending. Especially in this age, it seems that fewer campuses and more online and “branch” style educational offerings would be more appropriate than looking for ways to prop up underused campuses.