MAILED: May 3, 2000
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's enrollment could grow by about 300 full-time-equivalent students over the next six years, according to a plan to be presented to the UW System Board of Regents this week. UW System schools have been presenting their enrollment proposals to the Regents, who will set enrollment targets in June for each campus for the years 2001-2006.
Chancellor Donald Mash will present UW-Eau Claire's enrollment plan, which is aimed at protecting its core of traditional, full-time students while increasing access for working adults and serving special higher education needs of Chippewa Valley employers.
"We have been the epitome of the classic, traditional university, committed to excellence and offering distinctive undergraduate programs, a model for regional public education," Mash said. "We will work to enhance that dimension of our work while moving forward with plans to increase access for part-time students and play a bigger role in the economic development of our region."
The Enrollment Management 21 proposal, which would require additional resources to implement, targets 50 additional FTE to serve unmet needs among traditional students, bringing the FTE target enrollment to 9,400. The plan also calls for 190 FTE beyond the target to serve regional niche markets and 60 FTE for adult access and community outreach. Because most of these students would be part time, Mash said head-count enrollment could increase by as much as 1,000.
The enrollment proposal is linked in part to UW-Eau Claire's location in what is becoming known as Wisconsin's Technology Valley, the country's 11th fastest growing area for technology businesses. To implement the plan and serve the work force development needs of these employers, Mash said the university's resource base must grow.
For that reason UW-Eau Claire is asking for a special EM21 budget initiative of $2.5 million in the next biennium to expand computer science, software engineering and MIS programs.
"We sit in the center of a growing concentration of technology-related employers. By expanding the capacity of our already-strong computer science, software engineering and MIS programs, we can help fuel the engine of economic development in this region," he said.
To support the proposed growth, a number of efforts are already under way at UW-Eau Claire. A one-stop welcome center, where community members can stop in for information about the university, will open on Water Street this summer. During the past year the university hosted special community registration nights, worked to consolidate continuing education and outreach programs, and created new online courses to serve the region. The university continues to serve as a receive site for the National Technological University, bringing continuing and graduate courses to engineers and other high-tech employees.
In addition, a new partnership with UW-Stout, UW-River Falls and Chippewa Valley Technical College has been established to develop academic programs known as "2 + 2 among 4." These programs will allow individuals to attend the technical college for two years and then transfer to a UW System comprehensive university to earn a four-year degree.
"It is essential that we broaden our resources if all of this is to happen," Mash said. "We need to work together to grow our resource base in a partnership involving private support, tuition revenue and enhanced state support."
The UW-Eau Claire Foundation currently supports the university with $1.5 million each year and is in the process of planning its first international fund-raising campaign. Also necessary are modest increases in tuition matched by state support, Mash said.
With better support, UW-Eau Claire stands ready to provide the work force with more computer scientists, software engineers, MIS specialists, nurses, master's-level business graduates, special education and alternatively certified teachers, technology in-services for teachers and an accelerated flow of liberal arts-based professionals.
"We are focusing on meeting needs, building the programs we can do best and partnering with our higher education partners whenever possible," Mash said.
Most of those graduates can be expected to settle in the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Statistics show that 81 percent of UW-Eau Claire alumni live in Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota and northern Illinois.
"This translates to a brain-gain for our area and Wisconsin," he said, noting that 62 percent of UW-Eau Claire's graduates live in Wisconsin. "Our universities can operate with more or less, but less doesn't serve Wisconsin's prospects for the future well. We are not an end product our students, our region and our state are that. We're an investment vehicle, a public agency carrying out a regional agenda for the benefit of statewide development."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 3, 2000