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Dive Brief:

  • Wisconsin’s Democratic governor has vetoed a plan that would have combined a University of Wisconsin campus with a nearby public technical college.
  • As part of a June state budget proposal, Republican lawmakers sought to consolidate the campuses of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Washington County and Moraine Park Technical College.
  • On Wednesday, however, Gov. Tony Evers shot down the idea, saying it overstepped the legislature’s authority and unfairly singled out the two colleges.

Dive Insight:

The state’s Joint Committee on Finance proposed giving $3.4 million to the University of Wisconsin system to assist with the consolidation. The plan would have required the system to raise matching funds from private donors and Washington County.

Beyond those finances, the proposal did not go into extensive detail. But state Sen. Duey Stroebel, vice-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said at the time that the consolidation would close the UWM-Washington County campus.

Evers, in his veto message, said the proposal would have made the Washington County campus a joint operation of the Moraine Park Technical College district board and county leaders, instead of part of the University of Wisconsin.

“I object to the Legislature singling out only one of our state’s branch campuses when many campuses are facing challenges, in part due to the Legislature’s repeated failure to provide an adequate level of funding for the University of Wisconsin System,” Evers said.

The governor also criticized the proposal as stepping into the purview of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, as well as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Moraine Park Technical College. 

Both campuses have faced enrollment declines in recent years, but neither had requested intervention from the Wisconsin legislature. 

“These entities may collaborate if they so choose, but they will not be treated differently than other counties or campuses,” Evers said.

Olivia Hwang, vice chancellor for marketing and communications at UWM, praised Evers for leaving such decisions to higher education leaders.

“These conversations must include the viewpoints of employees and students of UWM at Washington County, who have been excluded from the county’s deliberations and decisions,” Hwang said in a statement. “UWM was not invited to be an official member of the task force, and while we monitored its progress, we had no influence over its final recommendations to the Washington County Board.”

But state Sen. Stroebel expressed disappointment over Evers’ decision.

“Unfortunately, this approach only continues to exacerbate antiquated inefficiencies and waste in the delivery of education in Wisconsin,” he said in an email Thursday. 

Even with the governor’s veto, Stroebel stressed that colleges across the state, including UMW-Washington County, still need to address declining enrollment. He highlighted potential consolidation efforts as one path forward.

“Taxpayers should not foot the bill for failing campuses to stay afloat,” Stroebel said.

UWM’s Washington County campus will remain open for the foreseeable future, according to Hwang.