UWM at Waukesha Campus to Close in 2025

March 11, 2024
Photo courtesy of UWM at Waukesha UWM at Waukesha to Close in 2025.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announced today that its UWM at Waukesha campus will close after the Spring 2025 semester. Declining enrollment and rising costs were cited as the reasons for the closure, similar to the October 2023 announcement of the closures of the two-year UW campuses in Washington County, Fond du Lac and Richland Center. 

The Waukesha campus experienced a total enrollment decline of more than 65% from 2014 to 2023. In the 2023-24 school year, there are only 686 students enrolled at the sprawling 86-acre campus located in the City of Waukesha. 

In 2018, the UW System attempted to shore up the state’s two-year campuses by merging them with their nearest four-year campuses. At that time, both Waukesha and Washington County were merged with UWM, and the campuses were provided with bachelor’s degree options in nursing, psychology and business. These efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, WCTC and other technical colleges have thrived, with increasing technical training options and the addition of associate degree programs. WCTC’s enrollment has increased to 18,650 for the 2023-24 school year.

WCTC Steps into the Gap

As part of this transition, UWM and Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) have now announced plans to develop the UWM University Center at WCTC. This will be similar to the Lakeland University – Waukesha Center partnership that WCTC created last year when Lakeland University relocated its Milwaukee campus to WCTC’s campus in Pewaukee. Both of these partnerships are designed to ensure that students can earn an associate degree from lower-cost WCTC and then seamlessly continue to a four-year degree with either Lakeland or UWM.

“UWM’s highest priority is student success,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “As student demands change, universities must change. The UWM University Center at WCTC allows us to put the student first and ensure a stronger future for UWM.”

UWM noted in a press release that expanded associate degree offerings available at WCTC since January 2023 was a contributing factor to the UWM at Waukesha campus enrollment decline, as there simply are not enough students to sustain a separate two-year campus in Waukesha.

WCTC President Rich Barnhouse said, “We are committed to supporting UWM and the Waukesha community through this transition. We look forward to delivering on that commitment and building a new model of high-quality education with UWM.”

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said, “The innovative action taken today by UWM and WCTC is what is best for Waukesha County. It provides certainty for planning purposes and creates a consistent pathway to access higher education for our residents. I am optimistic for the future of higher education in Waukesha County.”

Students also will have the option of commuting to the UW-Milwaukee campus or attending the Universities of Wisconsin Online to complete their degrees. A new website that makes it easier to navigate more than 200 fully online degree programs offered by the state university system was launched in early February at online.wisconsin.edu.

Faculty and Staff Layoffs 

Closing the UWM at Waukesha campus will prompt the layoffs of more than 100 employees, including tenured faculty, who are typically protected from job losses. However, both UWM and WCTC stated they will seek to hire those employees as enrollment grows.

UWM Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Andrew Daire said, “We are committed to working with our employees through this transition and identifying every possible opportunity for employment. Our team members at Waukesha are dedicated to educating and supporting students. We make this announcement with a deep understanding of the loss it will create for our colleagues.”

UWM at Waukesha Campus

Future of Campus Property

Under an agreement with the state of Wisconsin, the state pays for the faculty, staff and operations of the UWM at Waukesha campus, and Waukesha County is responsible for the buildings. As enrollment has declined over the past decade, most of the buildings have been substantially under-utilized, and in mid-2025, they will be empty. This leaves Waukesha County leaders with an important challenge to determine the future of the property, which is costing taxpayers $366,744 in the county’s 2024 budget. Set in a residential area on University Drive between Northview Road and Summit Avenue in Waukesha, a housing development seems to be the most likely option unless a better use for the existing buildings can be found in the next year.