UW System merger makes two-year schools branch campuses of four-year schoolsSubmitted: 11/29/2017
Rose McBride
Rose McBride

UW System merger makes two-year schools branch campuses of four-year schools
NORTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN - At the beginning of the month, regents approved a merger of four-year University of Wisconsin schools with two year schools. That means two-year schools will become branch campuses of those four year schools. 

"There's an identity crisis that might start to occur but the important message is that we're still one campus," said UW Marathon County Student Government President David Zuke. 

UWMC students had a lot of questions after System President Ray Cross announced plans for a merger of two and four year schools in October. 

"Are we going to be the Huskies anymore? Are we going to have our own campus?" Said Zuke. 

Some things that made students like David Zuke want to go to a school like UWMC were called into question.

"The big campus is good. I'm excited to move there, but I wanted to start small so I could focus more on studies and stuff," said Zuke. 

UWMC and UW-Marshfield/Wood County will now be branch campuses of UW-Stevens Point. The thirteen two-year schools that are called the UW colleges will be broken up and each put under the control of a four-year university. 

The merger will go into effect next summer, but UWSP Chancellor Bernie Patterson says students and staff won't see many immediate changes. 

"Eventually over the longer period, we hope there will be more courses available and more options available to students on those campuses including some four year degrees," said Patterson. 

Those course offerings and new degrees won't come into play for at least one year into the merger. 

Administrators will look at the needs of each campus before they create any four-year programs. 

"I don't know what those would be, those would certainly have to be carefully chosen I think to fit with demand in local communities," said Regional Executive Officer of UW Colleges North Keith Montgomery. 

Montgomery says the four year degrees would benefit local economies if students stay after graduation.
But as with any change, there was some hesitation and concern from students and staff. 

UWMC Biological Sciences Professor Dr. Paul Whitaker worried that reasons students choose to come to a two-year school would be put in jeopardy. 

"We're close, were cheap and we provide the support students need and those are things that are less evident at four year schools," said Whitaker. 

UWSP wants to bring the community oriented mission and outreach of two-year schools to their four-year university. 

There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the announcement, but David Zuke believes it's something students will ultimately benefit from. 

"It looks like it's going to be a win-win," said Zuke. 

The merger was originally initiated by President Cross because of declining enrollment at two year campuses. Students from those two-year colleges will still be able to transfer to any four-year college, not just the one that their college falls under. 

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