UW extension chancellor Cathy Sandeen supports the changes, even though it means her division wouldn’t exist after July of next year.
UW extension currently operates the system’s thirteen two year campuses, which are designed to be affordable options for college students — many of whom go on to transfer to a four year UW school. Under Cross’s proposal, all those schools would become part of a nearby four year campus.
The two year schools have hemorrhaged students in the last seven years, and enrollment at some campuses is down close to 50 percent at some campuses. Sandeen says that’s thanks to changing demographics.
“It’s just not a sustainable situation to have the campuses when you have fifty percent fewer students,” Sandeen says. “So when it’s in the family and under the umbrella, it’s going to have a little more resources devoted to it to help keep the doors open and help recruit more students.”
Cross says it would also help students more easily transfer credits from two year campuses to the reciprocal four year school.
But others aren’t are supportive of the move. State Sen. Janet Bewley worries about UW Barron County, a two year campus in her district. She says local leaders are in the best position to run those campuses. This move spells out the end for all the two year colleges, and it encourages students to leave rural, northern communities, she says.
Additionally, the proposal would merge other parts of UW-Extension with other existing parts of the UW System. For example, the Broadcasting and Media Innovations, which runs Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television and is currently part of UW-Extension, will move under the UW System Administration. The UW-Extension’s UW Cooperative Extension program would move under UW-Madison administration.
It’s unclear whether the change would result in position cuts right away, but Sandeen says that’s not the intent. But she says she could see the system cutting back in that area in the future.
“Over time, I think they will see some efficiency and streamlining, but not immediately on July 1 when the change is made,” Sandeen says.
The UW board of regents is set to vote on the plan in November.