UW System proposes merging UW colleges with four-year campuses - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UW System proposes merging UW colleges with four-year campuses


Madison (WQOW) - Major changes are being proposed for UW colleges and universities across Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, UW System President Ray Cross announced the proposal to merge 13 two-year UW Colleges with four-year UW institutions as part of a broader restructuring process. As mentioned in a press release, the restructuring will allow the UW System to address current and projected enrollment and financial challenges at the two-year institutions. UW System stated: 

"Demographic trends indicate that current enrollment challenges are not likely to significantly improve in coming years."

Cross is proposing the change be effective July 1, 2018. The proposal also calls for assigning divisions within UW-Extension to UW-Madison and UW System Administration. 

RELATED: UW-Stout responds to UW System restructuring proposal

In a press release, Cross stated:

“Change often produces uncertainty, but we cannot be afraid to pursue needed reforms. We must restructure these two organizations given the state’s demographic challenges, budgetary constraints, and the need for closer alignment between research and practice...We want to leverage the strength of our four-year institutions at a time when overall enrollments at UW Colleges are declining. Our goal is to expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported. We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for students, faculty, and staff.” 

Cathy Sandeen, the chancellor for UW Colleges and Extension, said she is "optimistic about the potential of this new structure":

“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...Our team has been enacting major change and transformation efforts for the past three years so we’re well positioned to help lead a smooth transition upon Board approval. 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.” 

Cross said they must improve access to higher education and keep it affordable for students and families.

“By 2040, nearly 95% of total population growth in Wisconsin will be age 65 and older, while those of working age 18-64 will increase a mere 0.4%. Our labor force growth will be flat, while the demand for an educated labor force is growing exponentially,” said Cross. “We must plan for the future now and be increasingly bold in our efforts to get more students through the educational pipeline to help meet Wisconsin’s needs."

Cross said the proposal will avoid closing any UW Colleges' campus while maintaining a university presence in their respective communities.


  • UW-Eau Claire
    • UW-Barron County
  • UW-Green Bay
    • UW-Manitowoc
    • UW-Marinette
    • UW-Sheboygan
  • UW-Milwaukee
    • UW-Washington County
    • UW-Waukesha
  • UW-Oshkosh
    • UW-Fond du Lac
    • UW-Fox Valley
  • UW-Platteville
    • UW-Baraboo/Sauk County
    • UW-Richland
  • UW-Stevens Point
    • UW-Marathon County
    • UW-Marshfield/Wood County
  • UW-Whitewater
    • UW-Rock County

Additional information on the proposed restructuring objectives: 

  • Maintaining and expanding access to higher education by offering more general education and upper-level courses at the integrated branch campuses
  • Identify and reduce barriers to transferring credits within the UW System
  • Maintain affordability by continuing current tuition levels at the branch campuses post-merger for general education courses
  • Further standardize and regionalize administrative operations and services to more efficiently use resources
  • Leverage resources and shared talent at our institutions to get more students into and through the educational pipeline, better aligning the university to meet Wisconsin’s projected workforce needs

In addition, the proposal calls for moving the UW-Extension Cooperative Extension (including Wisconsin 4-H) and the UW-Extension Conference Centers to UW-Madison. Cross said the move will help provide more opportunities to connect the work of extension agents with the research enterprise at UW-Madison.

Other divisions of UW-Extension would be integrated within UW System Administration to continue their statewide role:

  • Division of Business and Entrepreneurship (DBE)
  • Broadcasting and Media Innovations (BAMI) including Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio
  • Continuing Education, Outreach and E-learning (CEOEL) including UW Flexible Option


  • UW-Madison
    • UW-Extension Cooperative Extension
    • UW-Extension Conference Centers
  • UW System Administration
    • Business and Entrepreneurship Division
    • Broadcasting and Media Innovations (BAMI), including Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio
    • Continuing Education, Outreach and E-learning (CEOEL), including UW Flexible Option

The proposal will come before the Board of Regents in November seeking approval to proceed with the implementation planning.

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