UW president wants to merge four-year, two-year campuses

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross is proposing merging the state's two-year schools with its four-year campuses in an effort to boost enrollment.

That means University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee would absorb UW-Washington County and UW-Waukesha.

System officials said in a news release Wednesday that Cross' plan calls for keeping the two-year schools open but making them essentially regional branches of the four-year schools. Students would still earn associate degrees but they would come from the four-year schools.

They say the merger will make more classes available to two-year students, make their degrees more attractive and ease transfers to the four-year schools.

At UW-Washington County, many students were hearing the news for the first time. Kaitlyn Depies is studying music and wants to transfer to UW-Eau Claire, but the merger idea has her concerned.

"I just have so many questions," she said. "I don’t even know what to think right now, it was such a shock when they told us and nobody really knows anything yet it seems."

The move is designed to bolster two-year school enrollment, which has dropped 32 percent between 2010 and this fall.

"Wisconsin as a whole is stepping in the right direction when it comes to education," said UW-Washington County student Kyle Krausc-Emerick. "Milwaukee might create more of those four year programs here at the tech school level."

With declining enrollment, the UW System says this plan will address financial challenges while avoiding closing schools in smaller Wisconsin communities.

According to a news release, tuition would remain at current levels for general education courses, at all branch campuses after the merger.

Cross will present the plan to the Board of Regents next month.

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