Higher education in Wisconsin is experiencing uncertain times—and it is difficult to watch schools around us make hard choices due to deep-cutting enrollment declines.
On April 12, the Washington County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution from the Washington County Campus/Higher Education Task Force. The Task Force—made up of a broad group of county government, business, academic and nonprofit leaders—was put together to study the future of higher education; Moraine Park representatives Jim Barrett, Vice President of Student Services; Lane Holte, General Studies dean, and Pete Rettler, West Bend campus dean, were active meeting participants but non-voting members.
The resolution “recommends the creation of a pilot community college concept combining the resources of UWM at Washington County and Moraine Park Technical College to be implemented via legislative and policy actions, creating a post-high school educational model…”
As has been shared with our media partners, we do not see a need to formally merge but welcome the opportunity to work closer with our higher education partners to provide seamless transfer opportunities to our graduates who desire the completion of their baccalaureate degrees.
As part of the Wisconsin Technical College System, Moraine Park serves students and businesses at all stages of life and career. We are dedicated to our mission and providing talent for employers in our region. As schools make decisions in the best interest of their organization, Moraine Park is a regional resource in a 10-county area—and we do have the existing facilities, faculty and staff and resources to meet the needs of any student and serve our communities at an affordable cost. Although Moraine Park has also been faced with slight declines in enrollments during the past few years, the College is financially stable and expects to grow enrollments in 2023-24 through strategic initiatives in partnership with key stakeholders and the most recently approved referendum projects.
As the higher education space continues to change around us, it is critical that we foster the strong partnerships we have in place—and those relationships already include our UW partners, which can be seen in many of our recent University Transfer agreements. These transfer agreements created a seamless pathway from an associate degree to a baccalaureate and beyond, and the partnerships between our institutions have strengthened the services we can provide. We must continue to strengthen those relationships and keep the needs of our students and communities at the forefront as we navigate the current landscape.
Here are the facts that we have today:
- Moraine Park Technical College is not merging with UWM-Washington County.
- The Washington County Task Force proposal is purely advisory, with no enforcement mechanism forcing either institution to do anything.
- The only way to change the structure of the technical college system, including merging with other schools, is through legislative action.
- Moraine Park has the facilities, faculty and staff resources to provide all related admission and wrap-around services to existing and future students at an affordable cost.
- The College welcomes the opportunity to continue working closely with the UW System and other four-year higher education partners to provide seamless transfer opportunities to our graduates who desire a bachelor’s degree.
While the solution to enrollment woes is not easy—it is our reality in the state and across the nation. As educators, it is our job to continue to put students first and meet the needs of our workforce partners–and I give you my commitment that Moraine Park will remain that entity in your community.
— Bonnie Baerwald, Moraine Park Technical College president