Important News about UWM at Waukesha

Dear UWM Colleagues and Students,

At UWM, our highest priority is helping students succeed. We are constantly evaluating how to better educate and support our students for the long term. As student demands change, universities also must change.

However, sometimes those changes are extremely difficult to make, and I am deeply saddened to share news about this one. In response to a directive from the Universities of Wisconsin, UWM will close the Waukesha campus after the Spring 2025 semester concludes. This also means closing the College of General Studies and ending its associate degree offerings at that time. This will result in layoffs of many dedicated colleagues.

In place of a standalone campus, UWM is developing the UWM University Center at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC). This partnership will allow UWM to continue offering access to higher education in Waukesha County through bachelor’s degree completion and graduate-level offerings.

You likely have questions about how UWM reached this point, and I’ll share some details here. I do so against the backdrop of this: In the face of enrollment declines and reduced tuition revenues, we must adapt by building new pathways for students and ending those that are no longer sustainable.

How UWM got here

After announcing the closure of the Washington County campus last fall, I charged a group called the College of General Studies Transformation Team with evaluating several key questions. We hoped to create a clear path to integrate the operations of CGS into the rest of UWM and wanted to identify pathways for growth on the Waukesha campus. This work was in response to a charge by Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman to the UWM administration to answer the question: What should the future of the Waukesha campus be in the face of ongoing enrollment declines?

The data discovered during this process were not promising. There was a new student decline of 13% in Fall 2023 and a 10% lag in applications for Fall 2024 on top of a 65% decline in enrollment during the past decade. This is despite the continued determination and dedication of Waukesha employees and additional investments, such as offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing, psychology and business. Moreover, with WCTC offering associate degrees since January 2023, there simply are not enough students to sustain a separate two-year campus in Waukesha. Although we had truly hoped and believed that we would be able to continue long-term operations at the Waukesha campus, the data and financial realities do not allow for this. At the same time, the cost of operations at Waukesha on a per-student basis is comparable to the main campus costs, but the tuition is approximately half. This is unsustainable.

What this means for employees

As part of the UWM at Waukesha closure, I have been directed by President Rothman to consider all options for personnel reductions. UWM will issue employee non-renewals and layoffs, which will include tenured faculty. This is an unprecedented and upsetting closure that will impact our more than 100 employees at the Waukesha campus. UWM anticipates retaining most Waukesha employees through the 2024-25 academic year. UWM will work closely with CGS employees throughout this transition as we determine what support is needed at the main campus. UWM is also developing other potential options for employees, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

What this means for students

UWM is still accepting new students for the Fall 2024 semester at UWM at Waukesha. Students who currently attend UWM at Waukesha will be able to continue through the end of the Spring 2025 semester. UWM will work with students to ensure they have options to complete their degrees.

There is no direct impact to students on UWM’s main campus.

Moving forward

Transitioning to a University Center model ensures that students in Waukesha County can obtain a high-quality associate degree with WCTC at a low cost and then seamlessly continue a four-year degree with UWM. We will work with current UWM at Waukesha students over the next 16 months to help them complete their degree, transition to WCTC, or transfer to UWM’s main campus or the school of their choice.

We have also discussed pathways for UWM employees to transition to employment with WCTC. As enrollment grows at WCTC and the University Center, WCTC has committed to UWM that it will seek to hire UWM faculty and staff. UWM and WCTC will work together to share information and connect UWM at Waukesha employees with opportunities at WCTC as enrollment growth supports.

Continuing Education and the First-Year Bridge program will continue only at UWM’s downtown Milwaukee and main campuses, respectively.

I know this announcement creates uncertainty and prompts questions about the impact on students and the communities that we serve. UWM’s CGS employees have experienced many transitions since the System-mandated merger with the former UW-Waukesha in 2018. They have remained dedicated to supporting students, and I understand this is the most difficult transition we can make for the Waukesha campus.

UWM will support our employees through this transition, and UWM is also working closely with WCTC to provide information and other resources for employment opportunities there. We will provide more information as quickly as possible. Starting today, information about the changes ahead is available on this webpage. We will add answers to common questions, meeting dates and other information.

I am committed to leading UWM through this difficult transition and working with our campus communities to provide answers as more information is available.

Mark A. Mone, PhD