On Thursday, the UW System Board of Regents will vote on an Oct. 11 proposal that would merge two-year UW Colleges with four-year universities.
The causations of the proposal reported in the press release are threefold: changes in demographics, budgetary constraints and a need for continuity between two-year and four-year schools.
For UW-Eau Claire, this would mean merging with UW-Barron County, which is about an hour away from Eau Claire. The press release reported UW-Barron County has an enrollment of about 315 full-time students, according to the press release.
Even though the college has a commuting student body, UW-Barron County still offers 26 clubs and organizations — including their own student government — according to the college’s website.
Since the proposal’s announcement, UW-Eau Claire’s administration and student government have been preparing for the future if it passes in Thursday’s vote.
Although he has yet to meet with the administration of UW-Barron County, Chancellor James C. Schmidt said there is “a lot we can learn” from UW-Barron County. Therefore, Schmidt said his first goal is to listen.
Should the proposal pass, Schmidt said he wants to focus on keeping UW-Barron County true to its mission.
The mission of UW-Barron County, as Schmidt interprets it, is to be accessible to students with varying academic backgrounds. This includes students who want to save money by staying closer to home or non-traditional students who want to return to college with a flexible schedule.
“It’s my intention to do a little of bit of a ‘Power of [AND],’” Schmidt said. “I want to preserve the mission of the Barron County campus and bring a little bit more to the table.”
Schmidt said he would like to see courses from some UW-Eau Claire four-year programs brought to UW-Barron County to expand students’ options.
Student Body President Katy McGarry said she hopes the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate and the UW-Barron County student government will work together to become “one unified voice” if the proposal passes.
“(We will) figure out how we can best work together to serve our student governments and our student bodies as whole,” McGarry said.
On Thursday, McGarry and Student Body Vice President Nick Webber will be attending the Board of Regents meeting where the vote will take place.
Christopher Martinson is a fifth-year kinesiology student who attended UW-Barron County in 2013 and 2014 to finish some of his general studies courses before enrolling at UW-Eau Claire.
Martinson said he is fairly neutral about the proposal. He worries about it causing layoffs for the staff, although he said he did not know enough about the proposal to accurately foresee its negative effects.
On the other hand, Martinson said the merger could have a positive impact on UW-Barron County.
“With the merger, the students at Barron will get a little more class variety or maybe a little more online courses that they would be able to take,” Martinson said.
The Board of Regents’ meeting will be live-streamed from 10:00 a.m. to about 11:30 a.m. and from about 12:30 p.m. until about 2:00 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9.
If the proposal passes, the formal merge of the two campuses would occur on July 1, 2018.