By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD — There will not be many initial changes when UW-Marshfield/Wood County becomes a branch of UW-Stevens Point (UWSP) as part of a larger restructuring within the University of Wisconsin system.
That is what the current dean of the two-year Marshfield campus told members of the Marshfield Common Council Oct. 24.
Under the plan, Wisconsin’s two-year colleges would become branches of four-year institutions in their particular regions of the state. Regional Dean Keith Montgomery told Marshfield aldermen that the Marshfield campus and UW-Marathon County in Wausau would be satellite campuses of UWSP. He said the changes are being made to address enrollment and financial challenges while keeping all current campuses open.
“The challenges that the colleges have faced have included the decline in high school graduating classes, a decrease in state support, and a tuition freeze,” Montgomery said. “There is also a changing alignment between graduating high school seniors and the state’s manufacturing needs, so we are all familiar with the refrain, ‘You don’t need a four-year degree.’”
The year of 2010 brought an all-time high in enrollment at the state’s two-year campuses, but enrollment at the Marshfield campus has dropped by 47 percent since 2010 and is down by more than 50 percent at the Wausau facility.
“From the mid-1990s to 2010-2011, enrollments in the UW colleges rose 65 percent, so almost all of these gains have been erased since 2010,” Montgomery added. “So going forward, being part of a larger unit hopefully can smooth out the financial rollercoaster and induce cooperation in enrollments rather than competition.”
Montgomery told the council there were still many unanswered questions but that there will be no cost increases. He said input from locals would be sought, and community expectations can and should be communicated to the Stevens Point campus.
“For high school seniors and prospective students, there is no change in the application process,” said Montgomery. “Students who wish to start their University of Wisconsin education at Marshfield/Wood County in 2018, either the spring or the fall, should apply as they’ve done before, and they should do the same thing when it comes to applying for financial aid, and we hope that we can continue to assist high schools as we currently do in helping students navigate the entire UW application process.”
Mayor Chris Meyer expressed concerned about what is going to happen with the Marshfield facility, which is owned by the city of Marshfield and Wood County.
“Back in the 1990s, a campus was closed in Medford, and there was a requirement to repay several million dollars from the colleges to that community for the facilities they had constructed, but then the colleges ultimately pulled the operations out of,” Meyer said. “Once the colleges no longer exist and UWSP has the operations of this facility, that particular agreement didn’t apply to them originally and what could they potentially do as far as reducing the services and the offers here in the UW-Marshfield/Wood County campus. That could put us in a situation where we are essentially left holding the bag because the organization that we had the agreement with is no longer there.”
The UW Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the restructuring plan Nov. 9.