UW-Oshkosh to shut down its 2-year Fox Cities campus

UW-Oshkosh is among six four-year Universities of Wisconsin schools that face a deficit due to declining enrollment and flat state aid, and its Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced June 13 that the two-year branch campus in Menasha will close at the end of the 2025 spring semester.

Associated Press

June 13, 2024 • Northeast Region

FacebookRedditGoogle ClassroomEmail
A carved stone sign reading University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is embedded among paving stones on the exterior of a pillar that stands outside a brick and masonry building with a sign above an arched entrance that reads Dempsey Hall.

A sign for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh stands in front of the entrance to Dempsey Hall on the school's campus on Nov. 19, 2019. The UW-Oshkosh chancellor announced June 13, 2024, that the school's two-year branch campus in Menasha will close at the end of the 2025 spring semester. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

AP News

By Todd Richmond, AP

Universities of Wisconsin officials plan to close another two-year school in the face of declining enrollment, this time in the Fox Cities.

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced June 13 that in-person learning at the school’s two-year branch campus in Menasha will end after the spring 2025 semester.

The Menasha campus website said before Leavitt’s announcement that the school serves 1,367 students. But an analysis UW-Oshkosh Provost Ed Martini completed in the spring of 2024 showed the school had just 563 students enrolled in fall 2023. Enrollment has declined by 67% over the last decade, and projections show fewer than 100 students could attend the school by 2032, the analysis found. The school needs at least 491 students to remain financially viable, the analysis said.

The campus website was later updated to say the school serves 473 students. Leavitt’s chief of staff, Alex Hummel, said in an email that number reflects spring 2024 enrollment and the 1,367 figure was old.

He added that 227 students had enrolled for fall 2025 as of June 12, down 8.5% from the same time last year.

Leavitt said during a video conference with reporters that Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman made the decision on June 10 to end operations at the school.

“Unfortunately, the analysis is that the market and enrollment cannot sustain the Fox Cities Campus moving forward,” Rothman said in a statement.

The school’s 16 faculty members will be transferred to UW-Oshkosh, Leavitt said. The future of its 64 staff members depends on the four-year school’s 2026 budget, he said.

UW-Oshkosh is among six UW four-year schools that face a deficit going into the next academic year thanks to declining enrollment and flat state aid. UW-Oshkosh’s shortfall is the largest among the six at $8.6 million, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report on financial data UW officials presented to the Board of Regents this month.

Leavitt said during the video conference that UW schools don’t subsidize each other and that declining enrollment, not UW-Oshkosh’s deficit, was the sole driver of the decision to close the Menasha campus.

UW system officials have closed or announced plans to close five other two-year branch campuses around the state since 2023, including UW-Oshkosh’s campus in Fond du Lac.

Martini, UW-Oshkosh’s provost, said during the video conference that universities across the country face declining enrollment. Fewer high school graduates are continuing their education and more of those who do are opting for technical colleges rather than four-year schools, Martini said.

High school graduates see opportunities to make money right now, and that trend will continue until the economy cools, Leavitt added.

Winnebago County Executive Jon Doemel called the closing inevitable in light of declining enrollment. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson blasted Leavitt and Rothman, accusing them in a statement obtained by WLUK-TV of betraying the Menasha campus’ students and families’ trust.

“Now it will be up to the rest of us to clean up their mess,” Nelson said. “Shame on you.”

Leavitt said that’s not a fair criticism. Students who attend the Menasha campus in the upcoming year will still receive a quality experience, he said, and UW-Oshkosh stands ready to absorb them after the branch campus closes.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has said he plans to ask legislators for an $800 million increase for the UW system in the 2025-27 state budget. The odds of Evers securing that much money are next to zero if Republicans maintain control of the Legislature in the November election, however.

Statement to the Communities We Serve

There is no place for racism in our society. We must work together as a community to ensure we no longer teach, or tolerate it.  Read the full statement.