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UW-Eau Claire to increase enrollment through athletics, marching band, academic expansions

UW-Eau Claire’s plan to raise full-time enrollment involves adding three athletic teams, expanding the Blugold Marching Band and launching new majors. 

UW-Eau Claire’s plan to raise full-time enrollment involves adding three athletic teams, expanding the Blugold Marching Band and launching new majors. 

Image By: Jon Roanhaus

UW-Eau Claire released a plan Monday to increase enrollment through adding three sports, expanding the marching band, creating new majors and funding additional faculty and staff.

The university has faced enrollment decreases — many stemming from demographic changes — since 2010, when total full-time enrollment was at its peak since the 1980s. UW-Eau Claire lost 402 students between 2010 and 2018, a four percent drop. 

Over the next three years, UW-Eau Claire plans to increase full-time enrollment by 405 students, restoring it back to 2010 levels, according to a press release

The athletic expansion will add men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, as well as men’s baseball, which is returning after being discontinued in 1995. The sports will begin during the 2021 season, baseball and lacrosse in the spring and soccer in the fall.

The addition of the three teams will also help with student retention, according to UW-Eau Claire Athletics Director Dan Schumacher. A three-year average of nearly 90 percent of UW-Eau Claire student-athletes returned for a second year at the university.

“Our student-athletes stay and complete their degrees due to strong connections they make with their teammates and coaches, as well as this university’s outstanding faculty and staff,” Schumacher said in the release. “I truly believe that retention creates winners both in the classroom and on the field.”

The new and returning sports also push UW-Eau Claire’s total number of athletic teams to 25, two more than UW-Madison. This makes UW-Eau Claire the university with the most athletic teams in the state of Wisconsin, Schmacher told WEAU News

The teams are expected to bring 94 student-athletes to the university — 42 for baseball, 28 for soccer and 24 for lacrosse — and hiring process for coaches will begin “immediately,” according to the release. 

Members of the community were also energized by the announcement that baseball would be returning after nearly a quarter-century. 

“Baseball in this area is just huge — a lot of baseball players, a lot of older baseball players that won’t let go that just love the game,” Eau Claire Express manager Dale Varsho told WEAU. “It’s just an exciting day that the Blugolds have it back.”

Another university expansion is coming by way of the Blugold Marching Band, which aims to reach 500 members. This year alone, the band grew nearly 16 percent from 400 members last year to 475 members this fall, making it the second-largest collegiate marching band in the world. 

UW-Eau Claire also plans to launch new majors in biomedical engineering, actuarial science and public health as well as a master’s program in athletic training, all of which will begin fall 2020. 

“These are new majors that complement our existing program array and meet demand we are seeing from students as well as in the job market,” UW-Eau Claire Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Patricia Kleine said in the release. 

The university will also add faculty and instructional staff to some of the school’s most popular courses, creating more sections for students to enroll in. This can help reduce problems with classes that fill up quickly, leading to students completing their degrees quicker, according to Kleine. 

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt called this “an exciting time” for the university. 

“By expanding in these areas, we can recruit students who are likely to succeed and who we can introduce to our Chippewa Valley employers,” he said at a press conference

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