, ,

UW-Milwaukee announces closure of Waukesha campus in 2025, citing declining enrollment

The closure will impact more than 100 employees and require layoffs of staff and faculty

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Waukesha campus is seen here on Monday, March 11, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will close its Waukesha campus at the end of the spring 2025 semester. 

At a Monday news conference, UW-Milwaukee chancellor Mark Mone cited declining enrollment, shifting demographics and budgetary issues as reasons for the closure, which was made under a directive from Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman. 

“Today, higher education is challenged,” Mone said. “We need to make very difficult decisions, to, in every possible hope for opportunity, avoid some of the more consequential types of decisions that we may see in the future.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha campus is seen here on Monday, March 11, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

Around 550 full-time equivalent students are enrolled at the campus currently according to Mone. The campus closure will impact more than 100 employees and require layoffs of staff and tenured faculty as well.

The university’s Waukesha campus, which used to operate independently of UW-Milwaukee as the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha until 2018, has seen a total enrollment decline of more than 65 percent from 2014 to 2023.

“These are double digit enrollment declines, that make things rather challenging and they’re not unlike some of the numbers that we’re seeing at other two-year campuses in this state and certainly nationally,” Mone said.

The cost to run the Waukesha campus is the same per student as it is to run the main UW-Milwaukee campus, but students in Waukesha pay half the tuition.

“So that puts us in a very untenable, very difficult situation,” Mone added.  

The announcement is yet another in a trend of recent closures made by the system, as the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay announced in January it will suspend in-person classes at its Marinette County campus when the spring semester ends. In-person classes will also end at UW-Milwaukee at Washington County and UW-Oshkosh, Fond du Lac in June. UW-Platteville at Richland has been without students since May 2023.

“As state funding shrinks, many institutions like UW-Milwaukee are more reliant on tuition dollars,” a statement from UW-Milwaukee said. “As fewer traditional college-aged students choose to pursue degrees, universities in Wisconsin and across the country face unprecedented financial pressures. As such, they must make difficult choices to move forward from unsustainable operations.”

Gavin Eberhardt has been attending classes at the campus for nearly two years. He lives near the school, so it’s a short walk to class for him. He said Monday he enjoys the small class sizes and community feel.

“It sucks,” Eberhardt said. “This is a really nice place cause it’s in my community. With it closing down, I don’t know.”

Now, Eberhardt says he’s unsure about his future plans.

“We’ll have to figure it out, most students here,” he said.

UW-Milwaukee has a program continuation plan for every student at the Waukesha campus. Mone said it’s possible that some of the former staff and faculty could be hired at the main UW-Milwaukee campus as well.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone speaks at a press conference on Monday, March 11, 2024.

With closure, comes announcement of new Waukesha partnership

As part of the announcement Monday, UW-Milwaukee and Waukesha County Technical College announced plans to develop the UWM University Center at WCTC, which will offer students in Waukesha the chance to continue their schooling. 

“I think we’re going to see some exciting things come out of this,” said Rich Barnhouse, president of WCTC. “I think there’s going to be great opportunity for faculty and staff, I think there’s going to be unbelievable opportunity for students.”

Full-time students pay around $4,800 in tuition every year at the UW-Milwaukee Waukesha campus. At Waukesha County Technical College, students pay around $6,400 per year, according to Barnhouse.

Barnhouse said they’ll likely have to hire some more faculty and staff to accommodate some of the new students that could come over from the UW-Milwaukee Waukesha campus.

Plans still unclear for buildings, campus

Waukesha County maintains the campus, which has around 10 buildings. Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said the county has spent over $10 million to maintain those buildings since 2015.

“That could have been monies that were used in another opportunity in the county,” Farrow said.

It’s still unclear what will happen to the land after the campus closes. Farrow said there will likely be a work group to decide future plans. The county still has a lease with UW-Milwaukee on the land until 2040, which will be worked on with the university, Farrow said.