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Enrollment At UW Colleges This Fall Declines More Than 12 Percent

Freshmen Enrollment Down 18 Percent At UW's 2-Year Schools

Ray Cross (CC-BY-NC)

University of Wisconsin Colleges are seeing a 12.5 percent decrease in total enrollment this fall. As of Sept. 19, the colleges combined have 10,528 students enrolled. Last fall, that number was 12,044.

Enrollment for first-year freshmen students also declined by 18 percent. So far, there are 2,936 freshmen students, compared to 3,596 students last fall.

Chancellor Cathy Sandeen attributes the drop to lower numbers of high school graduates in the state. There were 890 fewer graduates in 2015 than there were in 2014, according to records from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

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“Because of this, competition is very fierce,” Sandeen said. “So we’re seeing a lot more competition from all institutions for students, including our own four-year institutions.”

Sandeen also believes the drop is caused by high school students choosing to work after graduation to save money for college and avoid taking out loans. Adding to that that, she said, is the sense of doubt among students about the value of a bachelor’s degree.

With fewer students, Sandeen said classes that are too small may not be offered on certain campuses. However, she said there are untraditional ways students can still take those courses.

“We have a wonderful analytics in place that help us combine courses, we can offer courses in a video conference format for our students,” Sandeen said. “If a particular course isn’t offered on one campus, it might be offered on another campus and a student can take it through videoconferencing.”

UW Colleges are expecting to lose $5 million in revenue this year because of the drop in enrollment, Molly Vidal, chief of staff for UW Colleges and UW Extension, wrote in an email. However, she said they don’t have plans to lay off faculty, eliminate any programs or impose a hiring freeze.

Vidal said the colleges have invested over $3 million from one-time funds from the UW System into their regions to reduce the need for extreme cuts and cancelations.