Coronavirus: Milwaukee-Area Higher Education Updates

Apr 17, 2020

Students and teachers at Wisconsin colleges and universities are grappling with the uncertainty of coronavirus-related closures. Schools across the state have suspended in-person classes, study abroad programs, and athletics.

WUWM will post updates below about how Milwaukee-area higher education institutions are responding to the coronavirus crisis.

>>The Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

April 17, 2:46 p.m.: UWM will put employees on furlough as it grapples with pandemic fallout

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee plans to implement mandatory furloughs in the upcoming fiscal year to compensate for an unprecedented financial hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said in a virtual town hall Friday morning that the plan is not yet final but all 12-month employees will likely be required to take at least eight days of furlough in the next fiscal year, which begins in July. Employees who earn higher salaries will be subject to longer furloughs. A furlough, in this case, means temporary unpaid time off.

UWM has lost $8 million to $10 million this semester alone, according to vice chancellor of finance Robin Van Harpen. The university lost room and board revenue when students were told to leave campus early, and UWM has incurred significant costs from rapidly moving thousands of in-person classes online.

“It is very clear to us that the financial impact will be much, much greater than any revenue decline we’ve ever faced before in our history,” Van Harpen said in the town hall video.

UWM’s spring and summer classes are all taking place online because of social distancing guidelines. Provost Johannes Britz said Friday that leaders are trying to prepare for multiple scenarios for the fall semester, including a scenario in which it is not safe for students and teachers to return to campus. Britz said the higher education landscape will be dramatically changed in the “post-COVID-19 era.”

Mone said UWM’s furlough plans should be finalized early next week. Other UW campuses are likely to take similar cost-cutting measures. UW System President Ray Cross announced Friday that about 600 UW System administrators will take one furlough day per month starting in May through June 2021.

April 16, 5:14 p.m.: Panel OKs furloughs for University of Wisconsin System

A University of Wisconsin System regents committee has authorized employee furloughs as campuses grapple with the coronavirus pandemic's economic fallout.

The regents' executive committee voted unanimously Thursday to let system President Ray Cross develop plans for system institutions and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank to develop a plan for the flagship campus.

Regents President Andrew Petersen said furloughs will likely be implemented on a rolling basis across groups of schools. Cross said after the vote that he's already drafted a plan and would submit it soon. He said UW-Madison's plan is coming later. He didn't say when.

- Associated Press

April 16, 11:13 a.m.: University of Wisconsin to take first steps toward furloughs

The University of Wisconsin System regents are set to take the first steps toward furloughing employees as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on.

The regents' executive committee is set to meet Thursday afternoon to adjust personnel policies to allow system President Ray Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank to create furlough policies.

System officials last week estimated that they'll lose $170 million for the spring semester alone through refunds for on-campus parking, dining and housing services, technology purchases to move classes online, payments to student workers who have lost their jobs and athletic revenue losses.

- Associated Press

April 14, 12:46 p.m.: UW System makes admissions requirements more flexible

The UW System is trying to make it easier for students to apply to schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. The system announced Monday it would reduce university undergraduate application fees from $50 to $25 at all schools except UW-Madison. Application fee waivers are also available for students in financial hardship.

Campuses will also accept unofficial transcripts, hold students harmless if they are unable to take or retake ACT or SAT tests, or if their high school moves to a pass-fail grading system. Schools like UWM have rolling admissions, so students wanting to begin in the fall semester can still apply.

April 14, 12:32 p.m.: UW campuses expected to lose $168 million this semester

The University of Wisconsin System expects to lose $168 million during the spring semester, due to lost room and board dollars and other repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Campuses shut down in-person classes and student housing in March. 

UW-Madison stands to lose the most, at about $100 million. The projected loss for UWM is $9.2 million. 

April 8, 5:26 p.m.: UWM commencement ceremony rescheduled to October

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone announced Wednesday that commencement ceremonies for the class of 2020 will take place on Oct. 10 if public health circumstances allow. 

"Our students deserve to celebrate their hard work, all-nighters, sacrifices and achievements," Mone said in an email. "And, unlike any other graduating class in our history, this group has endured unforeseen and challenging circumstances spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic."

UWM previously canceled May commencement events and told students it was working on alternatives.

April 6, 11:12 a.m.: UWM summer classes will be mostly online

UWM, Marquette University and other Wisconsin colleges are deciding to offer most summer courses online. UWM Provost Johannes Britz said in an email to staff that a small number of classes may be offered face-to-face during the latter half of the summer session. 

April 2, 10:43 a.m.: Coronavirus outbreak could affect UW's fall semester

University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross cautioned Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak that has already led to the suspension of all in-person spring classes could also force changes to the fall semester, which is scheduled to begin in August.

Cross, in addressing the university’s Board of Regents, said UW was working on various scenarios based on rapidly changing conditions. The flagship UW-Madison campus announced Thursday that it was moving all in-person summer classes scheduled to start in May to online only, another sign that leaders don’t expect a return to normalcy for months. Cross said plans for the fall will be made in coming weeks based on an array of assumptions “which continue to change and will continue to change over the next 60 days.”

- Associated Press

April 2, 10:36 a.m.: UW-Madison's summer classes will be online-only

UW-Madison is suspending in-person classes and ramping up online offerings for the upcoming Summer Term. The school had already shifted all learning online for the remainder of the spring semester. 

March 31, 10:17 a.m.: UW-Madison expects $100 million loss due to crisis

The University of Wisconsin-Madison expects to lose $100 million because of the coronavirus pandemic, that's if social distancing is over by June. The loss includes reimbursing students for room and board after the campus closed because of COVID-19.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the University Committee Monday additional expenses include hiring professional cleaners and buying software licenses and programs to move thousands of courses online. The Wisconsin State Journal reports the loss is about 3.2% of UW-Madison’s $3 billion budget. System spokesman Mark Pitsch said he doesn't have an estimate for the financial losses at its 26 campuses.

- Associated Press

March 30, 1:15 p.m.: UWM will grant tenure clock extensions due to crisis

UWM Provost Johannes Britz announced in an email to employees Monday that tenure-track faculty who request an extension of the tenure clock will be granted one, due to the pandemic's disruption to regular research, teaching and scholarship. 

March 30, 1 p.m.: Marquette, UWM to offer students flexible grading options

The coronavirus pandemic forced colleges to move classes online, and now some are offering students grading flexibility because of the unexpected change. Marquette University is giving students the option of receiving pass/not pass grades for their spring semester courses, as opposed to traditional letter grades.

UWM is also implementing an emergency policy to allow undergraduate students to switch their course grades to credit/no credit. Letter grades will be given in May, and students will have until July 3 to switch grades to credit/no credit if they wish. 

March 27, 2 p.m.: UWM will freeze hiring, take other cost-saving measures as it braces for financial hit

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone told employees in an email Friday that the university will freeze hiring and pay raises due to an expected revenue loss amid the coronavirus crisis. Like other Wisconsin schools, UWM shuttered most of its campus, including student residence halls, to protect the community from the virus. The university will provide prorated housing and dining refunds for students who have vacated dorms. In addition to that lost revenue, Mone says the university also expects to spend more on paid leave for employees who cannot work because of the health crisis. 

March 23, 3:31 p.m.: Marquette goes online for rest of semester, commencement ceremony postponed

Marquette University announced Monday that remote learning would continue until the end of the semester and May commencement ceremonies would not take place. The school may hold a commencement event for its spring 2020 graduates in August.

March 23, 10:55 a.m.: UW-Madison postpones commencement ceremonies

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the school community Monday that May commencement events would be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Blank said the school is working on a virtual commencement celebration and will hold an in-person event when the public health crisis has subsided. 

March 23, 10:40 a.m.: Carthage College will finish semester online

Carthage, a private college in Kenosha, announced Sunday that all classes will be taught remotely through the rest of the academic year. The May commencement ceremony has been canceled, and the school says it hopes to celebrate 2020 graduates with an in-person event later in the year.

March 20, 5:30 p.m.: MATC suspends in-person classes until further notice

MATC will use online or other alternative class delivery until further notice, the school announced Friday evening. Classes will start in an alternative delivery mode as instructors are able to make the transition, but no later than April 13. Students in classes that cannot easily transition to remote learning will get more information from instructors about the next steps. 

March 20, 4:20 p.m.: UWM cancels spring graduation events

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone told students and staff in an email Friday that graduation and commencement ceremonies planned for May will not happen.

"These decisions are consistent with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ executive order barring mass gatherings," Mone wrote. "We know how profoundly disappointing this is for those graduating, as well as families, supporters and friends."

March 20, 11 a.m.: UW schools to reimburse students for room and board 

Many UW campuses, including Madison and Milwaukee, are canceling in-person classes for the rest of the semester and asking students to permanently vacate residence halls. The UW System says schools will offer prorated housing and dining refunds to students moving out of dorms. 

Meanwhile, UWM is making assistance available for students who are struggling amid the upheaval of the coronavirus crisis. UWM's food pantry is open and students can apply for emergency grants to pay for online education materials, childcare, temporary housing, or to make up for sudden loss of income.

March 19, 2 p.m.: Some private colleges decide to stay online for rest of the semester

Cardinal Stritch, Carroll, Concordia, Wisconsin Lutheran College and Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design announced decisions to stick with remote class delivery for the rest of the semester. The schools originally had tentative plans to resume in-person classes after a few weeks. Now, they're adjusting to distance learning for a longer period.

Carroll University has also decided to hold a virtual commencement ceremony. Wisconsin Lutheran College postponed its commencement ceremony to Aug. 29. 

Wisconsin public universities, including UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison will also keep learning online-only for the rest of the semester.

March 18, 4 p.m.: UWM calls off in-person classes for rest of semester

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone announced that the suspension of in-person classes will continue through the end of the semester. Mone said Gov. Tony Evers' order to limit gatherings to 10 people maximum prompted the decision. 

Previously, UWM planned to resume regular instruction on April 13. The university extended its spring break by an extra week to give professors time to plan for remote course delivery. Now, distance learning will continue through the end of the school year. 

A UWM employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the university said on Tuesday. 

UW-Madison announced Tuesday that it would suspend in-person instruction through the remainder of the semester. 

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