UWGB to suspend in-person classes at Marinette campus after spring semester | WLUK
MARINETTE, Wis. (WLUK) — FOX 11 has learned the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will suspend classes at its Marinette branch that are exclusively taught in-person starting this fall.
Chancellor Michael Alexander informed faculty and staff of changes coming to the campus in a letter Friday afternoon after FOX 11 questioned the university on Thursday about the future of the Marinette campus.
In Alexander’s letter, he says he visited the Marinette campus in November to discuss with faculty and staff changes for the location due to enrollment challenges.
For the fall semester, enrollment at the Marinette campus was at 213, down from 305 in 2018-19. The enrollment compares to 404 at UW-Green Bay’s Manitowoc campus and 436 at the Sheboygan campus.
On the Marinette location, Alexander writes, “despite initial enrollment gains, we recognize that persisting on the current path will inevitably lead to closure. Instead of waiting for a closure, we have chosen to proactively rethink our approach to maintain a meaningful presence in Marinette.”
The letter states, “In the fall, we will keep classrooms with streaming capabilities active for courses that are taught at Marinette or coming to Marinette from other UW-Green Bay locations.” FOX 11 has been told that means there may be some instances where professors are teaching students in-person from classrooms in Marinette, however, those classes will also be streamed to students who attend other UW-Green Bay locations.
Fourteen classes were taught purely in person during the fall 2023 semester, according to the letter.
“Never is a really strong word, but I would also say for the foreseeable future, it’s not going to come back like it was,” Alexander told FOX 11 in an interview. “It’s just not. We have to get comfortable that this change is occurring and how we can thrive within it.”
Alexander says the university will increase its investment in Marinette on three pillars: to make Marinette’s Herb Williams Theatre the flagship theatre northwest of Green Bay; to make the campus an “access point for students and community members for educational resources;” and to “invite third party access to facilities that can enhance the capital investment Marinette County has made at the location.”
“This is a great opportunity we have to rethink how do we make sure that space is vibrant and used all the time if the county is invested in it, which they’ve done,” said Alexander.
FOX 11 asked Alexander whether there would be any layoffs.
“At this point, we’re not ready to make announcements on this,” said Alexander. “We’re working with each individual staff member on their position description as we’ve worked with the county to hopefully redevelop their position description to reflect the changes we’re having to the location.”
Alexander says there are no projections for how these changes could impact the university financially.
“We’re not trying to break even,” said Alexander. “That is not going to happen, but what is the return we’re getting on our investment and we would like that return as people who are either getting an educational experience or find value in what we can provide in Marinette. That’s how we measure success.”
The announcement of changes to Marinette’s campus comes just a few months after the Universities of Wisconsin announced changes to three branch campuses expected to take effect after this spring’s semester: UW-Oshkosh’s Fond du Lac campus and UW-Milwaukee’s Washington County campus will be ending in-person instruction and UW-Platteville-Richland is closing.
At the time of those announcements, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman directed chancellors to look at the future of the branch campuses they oversee.
Marinette County owns the buildings on UW-Green Bay’s Marinette campus. At the end of the month, Chancellor Alexander will be meeting with the county board to discuss the lease UW Regents signed with the county in 1967.
The lease is supposed to end in 2042, but can be terminated on June 30 of any year if “appropriations by the legislature are insufficient to permit the continued operation of the university” or “state legislation concerning higher education in Wisconsin involves a fundamental change in the university’s branch campus program.”
“It would be a bummer for it to shut down because I think it helps a lot of people,” said Kate Schwaba, a UW-Green Bay Marinette student who is about to begin her second semester next week. “You’re getting the same education at this campus as you are at a bigger school or another campus, it’s just smaller and convenient.”
FOX 11 spoke with Schwaba on Thursday, before UW-Green Bay clarified its plans for the campus.
“I think it would be really sad if they shut the campus down because I just think it’s a really good option for students who maybe aren’t as financially stable or are unsure what they want to do like I was,” said Schwaba.
If the campus were to end in-person instruction, Schwaba says she’d re-evaluate her higher education plans.
“I’d probably end up transferring somewhere else just because I don’t like online classes and I work a lot better in person,” said Schwaba.