Members of the UW Colleges Faculty Council are responding to a proposal that would restructure the UW system and create clusters with two-year branches of four-year campuses in Wisconsin.

The UW System Board of Regents will review the proposal in November. In advance of the meeting, the Faculty Council wrote a letter, obtained by Wausau Pilot and Review, to the Board of Regents to appeal the proposal. (see below)

The move is a response to declining enrollments at two-year colleges statewide. Most pronounced is a 52 percent drop in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment at UW-Manitowoc, followed closely by a 51 percent drop at UW-Marathon County since 2010, according to university figures.

Many questions remain about the proposed merger, including how such a move would impact county budgets. Counties that two-year campuses, such as UW-Marathon County, are responsible for the buildings and capital maintenance at the facilities. But at four-year campuses, such as UW-Stevens Point, the buildings are the responsibility of the state.

There are also questions about how the mergers would impact tuition rates, which are markedly lower at two-year schools.

According to the University of Wisconsin System, UW-Madison would absorb UW-Extension, the outreach arm of the system in counties statewide.

  • UW-Marathon County and UW-Marshfield/Wood County would become branches of UW-Stevens Point.
  • UW-Rock County would become part of UW-Whitewater.
  • UW-Barron County would become part of UW-Eau Claire.
  • UW-Waukesha and UW-Washington County would become branches of UW-Milwaukee.
  • UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac would merge with UW-Oshkosh.
  • UW-Manitowoc, UW-Sheboygan and UW-Marinette would merge with UW-Green Bay.
  • UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County would become branches of UW-Platteville.

The remaining four year UW campuses (Parkside, La Crosse, River Falls, Stout and Superior) would not have a UW College branch.

Dear UW System Administration and Board of Regents Leadership:

Recent announcements about the plan to merge the UW colleges campuses with their nearest four-year partners have taken UWC faculty and staff by surprise; we have been an institution for 40 years–with a shared mission, shared values, shared departmental and curricula work, and all the ways that institutions of higher education organize themselves. We recognize the logistics, pressures, and politics of the situation, meaning we understand this proposal will likely be approved by the Board at its November meeting. In acknowledging that, we respectfully urge you to preserve the following core aspects of what has historically been the UW Colleges mission as conditional requirements of the proposed UW System restructuring.

Access: UW Colleges is open-admission. We welcome students from any educational background, those who want second chances; those who have academic and nonacademic challenges, as well as those who shine bright in traditional academic ways. Nontraditional students, students from rural communities who want to remain at home to save money or help family; veterans who need local support; and students with caregiving and work responsibilities all choose UW Colleges campuses for reasons that meet their educational and non-educational needs. We urge you to preserve the open-access and open-admissions policies for our campuses as you make decisions about the resolution you are being presented with.

We are a pathway not just because we are located in the communities around the state who value having a university presence and all its attendant resources close by, but because we provide the curriculum, the support and resources that many students need to succeed in higher education. Data from the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research shows students who transfer from the UW Colleges to four-year campuses succeed at higher rates than even students who start their educational experiences at those baccalaureate campuses.

The curriculum and support programs we offer for underprepared students who come to college with prior educational experiences that may not be aligned with college expectations–but who have the potential and capacity to develop those skills–simply are not offered at the comprehensives. If we hope to increase retention and graduation rates of students–wide ranges of students from wide ranges of backgrounds–these programs must be increased, not decreased, if the stated goal of increasing student success and attainment of degrees is to be achieved.

Affordability UW Colleges mission around access is as much about having an open-door policy as it is about being affordable for students from any socioeconomic background. As the link demonstrates, our tuition rates are significantly lower than most comprehensives and almost half that of Madison. Wisconsin students deserve to have access in all ways to a quality higher education option. UW Colleges has historically provided access. Thus we urge you to retain the tuition differential that has made the dream of a UW degree become a reality for so many Wisconsinites.

Tenure: President Cross and Chancellor Sandeen have reassured UW System faculty, our families, and our communities that the tenure status that has been earned including time at rank and seniority will be preserved in a seamless transfer to our new four-year main campuses. Nearly all (approximately 90%) of our tenure-line faculty hold terminal degrees in their fields. Our processes are rigorous. Simultaneously, we have built programs and pedagogical approaches that are designed to serve a very diverse range of students–as our successful transfer rates to our baccalaureate campuses demonstrate.

As importantly, though, our tenured and tenure-line faculty have fully earned or made strong progress toward tenure in the University of Wisconsin System. They have been hired through national (and sometimes international) searches, and many have relocated to this state in good faith. They have taught effectively across a wide range of courses; they have presented at conferences and published peer-reviewed articles and academic books; they have edited collections; they serve on the executive committees of national and regional professional organizations; they have served their communities. They have been reviewed and evaluated by their disciplinary peers in many ways and granted tenure after a 6-year process, while teaching the heaviest load, largely of lower-division courses, in the UW System. Please ensure that the work they have done is valued as we move into this new configuration.

We are all mourning the loss of the many things we have built in the UW Colleges as an institution–we have award winning programs, we have developed processes, programs, and grant projects that have garnered national attention and awards; our integrated senate has built clear, useful, and sustainable policies to govern our institution. We are all heartbroken that that labor will be undone by a single vote. But we are not naive. We only ask that you preserve those very core things–the mission–that brought us all to work at the UW Colleges and respect the labor we have contributed to making it what it is.


Holly Hassel, UW-Marathon County, UW Colleges Faculty Council Chair, and members of the Faculty Council,

Troy Kozma, UW-Barron County

Annette Kuhlmann, UW Baraboo

David Demezas, UW-Fond du Lac

Kimberly Schatz, UW-Fox Valley

Jessica Lyn Van Slooten, UW-Manitowoc

Katie Kalish and Paul Whitaker, UW-Marathon County

Kelly Wilz, UW-Marshfield/Wood County

Mark Klemp, UW Marinette

Christa James-Byrnes, UW Colleges Online

Brandon Fetterly, UW-Richland

Ken Brosky, UW-Rock County

Valerie Murrenus Pilmaier and Mark Karau, UW-Sheboygan

Tricia Wessel-Blaski, UW-Washington County

Drew Blanchard, UW-Waukesha

Julianna M. Alitto, UW-Waukesha

Ron Gulotta, UW-Waukesha