UWM at Waukesha campus to close in 2025; UWM develops University Center with WCTC

Faced with enrollment declines, UWM embarks on new ways to ensure student success in Waukesha

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announced today that its UWM at Waukesha campus will close after the Spring 2025 semester in response to a directive from the Universities of Wisconsin. This also means closing the College of General Studies and ending its associate degree offerings at that time. Declining enrollment, shifting demographics and budgetary constraints led UWM to re-evaluate the best pathway for delivering higher education in Waukesha County.

As part of this transition, UWM and Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) jointly announced plans to develop the UWM University Center at WCTC. The University Center model ensures that students in Waukesha County can obtain a high-quality associate degree from WCTC at a low cost and then seamlessly continue a four-year degree with UWM. It also allows UWM to continue offering affordable higher education in Waukesha County through bachelor’s degree completion and graduate-level offerings.

“UWM’s highest priority is student success,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “As student demands change, universities must change. The UWM University Center at WCTC allows us to put the student first and ensure a stronger future for UWM.”

“The innovative action taken today by UWM and WCTC is what is best for Waukesha County,” Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said. “It provides certainty for planning purposes and creates a consistent pathway to access higher education for our residents. I am optimistic for the future of higher education in Waukesha County.”

UWM and WCTC will work collaboratively to support current and prospective students in identifying options that best meet their goals. In January 2024, UWM announced transfer agreements with four regional technical colleges, including WCTC. Students with associate degrees interested in continuing their degree at UWM no longer need to fill out a lengthy application.

Closing the UWM at Waukesha campus will impact more than 100 employees, including faculty. During the transition, WCTC will seek to hire UWM at Waukesha employees as enrollment grows.

UWM University Center at WCTC

The joint announcement of the UWM University Center at WCTC offers an opportunity to reshape the future of higher education in the M7 region. UWM and WCTC have had a longstanding relationship of more than 20 years. The UWM University Center at WCTC will allow students to transition seamlessly between associate and bachelor’s degrees. It will also allow for graduate degree opportunities.

“We are committed to supporting UWM and the Waukesha community through this transition,” said WCTC President Rich Barnhouse. “We look forward to delivering on that commitment and building a new model of high-quality education with UWM. Chancellor Mone is a strong partner and I value his leadership and collaboration on shaping the future of higher education in Wisconsin.”

UWM will support student transitions to WCTC over the next 16 months. As enrollment grows at WCTC and the University Center, WCTC will seek to hire UWM employees.

Declines in enrollment and funding

Enrollment declines at UWM at Waukesha mirror declines at two-year colleges throughout the nation. The Waukesha campus, which operated independently from UWM as the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha until 2018, experienced a total enrollment decline of more than 65% from 2014 to 2023. With expanded associate degree offerings available at WCTC since January 2023, there simply are not enough students to sustain a separate two-year campus in Waukesha, so it makes sense to adapt by consolidating and collaborating on educational offerings.

After the UW System-mandated merger of UWM and UW-Waukesha in 2018, UWM continued investing in the Waukesha campus and expanded to offer bachelor’s degree options in nursing, psychology and business. These efforts sought to attract new prospective students, but new bachelor’s programs are insufficient to mitigate the 10-year loss in associate degree students.

As state funding shrinks, many institutions like UWM are more reliant on tuition dollars. 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.

Impacts on UWM at Waukesha employees

As directed by Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman, the closure of the UWM at Waukesha campus will require layoffs of staff and faculty, including tenured faculty. UWM will work closely with all involved to support employee transitions.

“Today’s announcement will also directly impact more than 100 employees at our Waukesha campus,” UWM Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Andrew Daire said. “We are committed to working with our employees through this transition and identifying every possible opportunity for employment. Our team members at Waukesha are dedicated to educating and supporting students. We make this announcement with a deep understanding of the loss it will create for our colleagues.”

UWM will support employees over the next 16 months to provide additional support and resources. As enrollment growth allows, UWM and WCTC are committed to working together to employ as many UWM at Waukesha faculty and staff as possible.

Media availability

Chancellor Mone, President Barnhouse and County Executive Farrow will hold a news conference on UWM’s main campus at 2 p.m. Monday, March 11, at the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, 2100 E. Kenwood Blvd. Contact media-services-team@uwm.edu if you would like to attend.