University of Wisconsin–Stout students and faculty are upset about the Board of Regents’ proposal to merge the UW system’s 13 two-year schools with the 13 four-year schools. This plan, which was proposed by the UW System Board of Regents, would allow students to earn an associate’s degree from a two-year college location, but through a larger four-year school. This has been proposed due to the falling enrollment in UW’s two-year colleges.
If this plan is passed, UW–Barron County, a two year institution, would no longer bear that name. It would become a branch of UW–Eau Claire, where students could complete both associate and four-year degrees.
Students and faculty of UW–Stout, including the chancellor, are concerned that merging UW–Barron County with UW–Eau Claire would hurt UW–Stout’s link to Barron County, as it could possibly cause fewer students to transfer to UW–Stout.
UW–Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer stated, “In 2015-16 [… ] more than a quarter of the UW–Barron County students who transferred to UW System institutions chose [to continue their education at] UW–Stout, and we must preserve that transfer pipeline.” He is determined to keep UW–Stout’s link to UW–Barron County intact.
Due to the history of students transferring from UW–Barron County to UW–Stout, the Stout Student Association (SSA) and Meyer have opposed the plan to merge UW–Barron County with UW–Eau Claire. Students at UW–Barron County have a history of transferring to UW-Stout in order to further their education, and many are concerned that this will dwindle if UW–Barron County was linked to another institution.
“I […] will do everything possible to maintain our historical link to UW–Barron County and remain a top choice for students who start their education there and continue to a four-year degree,” said Meyer. He is concerned that the UW System Board of Regents’ plan to merge UW–Barron County with UW–Eau Claire could negatively impact the number of applicants for UW-Stout.
The SSA met on Tuesday, Oct. 24 in order to discuss what action to take regarding the merger. They proposed a solution to the UW System Board of Regents, asking them to reconsider the plan and alternatively have UW–Barron County merge with UW–Stout.
“We express our sincere disappointment in the handling of this proposed restructure and are asking for this proposal to be postponed for one meeting to review identified problems and potential solutions in a thoughtful and collaborative way,” the SSA stated with the release of their proposal.
In regards to the merger, Caroline Winkers, a sophomore in entertainment design, said, “I’m pretty neutral about it, because I feel like it’s not something that would concern me.”
When asked to elaborate on her opinion, Winkers continued, “If [a student] wants to come to Stout, they want to come to Stout. They should be coming here because it’s the right school for them. Not just because it’s convenient.”
When asking other students on their opinions towards the matter, many students were not aware that this change may be occurring.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re keeping it quiet, because this isn’t the first time. I think they should be more open about it to students, because is it going to affect the tuition? I wish they would tell us more,” said Amy Popp, a sophomore in the communications program.
Despite having little knowledge on the subject as well, Jay Flanery, a junior with a major in food science, stated, “It might be easier for transfer students, because I did a two-year [school] and then transferred here. And it’s still not lining up all the way.”
The UW System Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the matter on Thursday, Nov. 9.