Wisconsin university system to end Richland degree programs
University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman ordered UW-Platteville's chancellor Tuesday to stop offering degree programs at the school's Richland campus in the face of declining enrollment.
Rothman sent a letter to UW-Platteville interim Chancellor Tammy Evetovich saying only 60 students are currently pursuing degrees at the Richland campus and starting next academic year all degree programs offered at the branch campus will move to the main campus in Platteville.
“While the University of Wisconsin System remains committed to the branch campuses and providing as broad of access for students as possible, there comes a time when financial pressure and low enrollment makes in-person degree level academic instruction no longer tenable,” Rothman wrote.
He ordered Evetovich to develop a plan by Jan. 15 for transitioning the current students to the Platteville campus or the branch Baraboo campus. He called for her to make “reasonable arrangements” for them, suggesting they could continue to pay Richland tuition levels if they transfer to Platteville or another UW System school. He added that the plan should address faculty and staff as well but didn't elaborate.
He also said the plan should include ideas for maintaining a presence at the Richland campus, suggesting the school could offer enrichment programs and courses for adult learners or serve other, broader community needs.
“The decision to request the plans as outlined above was not an easy one for obvious reasons, but I ultimately concluded that the status quo is no longer sustainable,” Rothman said in the letter.
Voicemail messages left for UW-Platteville and Richland campus officials Tuesday morning weren't immediately returned.
The Richland campus was once one of the system's 13 stand-alone two-year schools. Rothman's predecessor, Ray Cross, merged the system's two-year schools with its four-year campuses in 2017 in a bid to keep them open despite declining enrollment. Cross believed the merger would make the two-year colleges more attractive to students because the degrees would come from the four-year schools, transfers would be easier and classes would be more convenient.
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone emailed faculty, staff and students Tuesday to try to assuage concerns about the future of the Milwaukee-area branch campuses.
"Please know that this action [at UW-Platteville Richland] is not linked to other campuses and that we support and continue to invest in our UW-Milwaukee branch campuses," Mone wrote. "Our Waukesha and Washington County campuses have much more robust enrollments. We are investing in them because they provide valuable services in these communities and are important in our efforts to provide educational opportunities across the southeast Wisconsin region."
UW-Waukesha's current enrollment is 810 and Washington County's is 339. Enrollment has been rapidly declining at both campuses.
Editor's note: WUWM is a service of UW-Milwaukee. This story may be updated.