The Wisconsin system’s smaller branch campuses continue to bleed students with a 42% drop in enrollment since a reorganization four years ago that was designed to keep them afloat by merging with nearby four-year schools.
Overall, the system has 1,786 fewer students this fall than in 2020, or a decrease of about 1%, according to preliminary data released Thursday. This is a small drop compared to the 2.3% drop recorded at the national level. And new enrollment increased by about 4%, compared to a decline of 3% nationally.
“Clearly, we are doing something right,” Interim Systems President Tommy Thompson told the UW Board of Regents at a meeting on the UW-Madison campus on Thursday.
But the data paint a dire picture at some of the smaller branch campuses, most of which are located in smaller towns, with declining populations that attract students from the area.
At UW-Platteville Richland, enrollment has dropped to 75 students, down from 366 students when the reorganization took effect in 2018. Its parent campus, UW-Platteville, reported a 10% drop, the biggest drop among four-year schools.
University spokesman Paul Erickson said the numbers were largely anticipated given the declining number of high school students in southwest Wisconsin.