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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Democratic lawmakers worried over plan to consolidate two-year and four-year UW schools

Twenty Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about a recent proposal to merge Wisconsin four-year and two-year colleges in a letter sent to UW System President Ray Cross Thursday.

The primary concern centered on planning and implementation of the potential merger that took many people by surprise.

“Especially concerning to us is the complete lack of collaboration and deliberation in such a far reaching proposal,” the letter said.

Cross originally introduced the proposal in a press release, stating that merging Wisconsin’s two-year schools and four-year schools would boost enrollment at two-year schools. In the merger, two-year schools would become a branch of a nearby four-year institution.

In addition, the merger hopes to make more classes available at two-year colleges.

UW-Madison, however, would not combine with a two-year school.

The lawmakers also questioned whether the restructuring is necessary to solve the low enrollment at two-year schools.

“We are concerned that this merger will not maintain adequate access to higher education and that it could open the door to campus closures in the future,” the letter said.

A better way to make classes more available, increase enrollment and make campuses more diverse is to provide more state funding, according to the lawmakers.

“We recognize Wisconsin’s demographic challenges,” said the legislators. “One of the main ways to accomplish that is by promoting a strong UW System through robust state investment, not merging institutions.”

The merger has also raised questions about whether it would lead to cuts to staff and faculty or reduce the number of programs or departments.

The lawmakers asked Cross to collaborate with chancellors, faculty, staff, students and community members before going to the Board of Regents in November for approval of the proposal.

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“Without sufficient study and the consultation and inclusion of concerns from these stakeholders, we fear this proposal will not succeed,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to slow down this process and form a stakeholder group to examine the issue and propose possible remedies.”

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