Although the UW College’s northeast region reported enrollment declines for all of its campuses, course offerings in the curriculum are projected to remain unchanged from fall 2016 to 2017, thanks to a relief fund from the UW System, among other factors.
UW-Fox Valley, one campus in the northeast region, reported an approximate 14 percent enrollment drop from spring to fall 2016 leading to 17 courses being canceled this semester.
As for the other campuses, UW-Fond du Lac reported an 8 percent drop, while UW-Manitowoc saw a larger 24 percent decline.
However, of those 17 canceled courses, 14 had additional sections of the same course students could take, and 10 of those 14 had no students signed up or professors to teach the course.
According to Bill Bultman, northeast associate dean for academic affairs, common classes such as ENG 101 are added to the curriculum ahead of time, and sections are added or removed based on student need.
Bultman suggested these cancelations operated normally, albeit to greater lengths, under the managed curriculum system.
“In fall 2016, approximately 30 percent of our curriculum was managed this way. … This semester demonstrates an extreme point for the situations that the model was designed for,” Bultman said via faculty email.
According to Bultman, a relief fund provided by the UW System was vital in maintaining the same number of course sections until spring 2017.
Corresponding to enrollment decreases, UW-Fond du Lac received $100,000 while UW-Fox Valley and Manitowoc received $300,000 each in relief funds.
“We were able to apply some of that money to both fall  and spring . We’re going to essentially eliminate all cuts to the spring curriculum,” Bultman said.
Although no substantial decreases are predicted in fall 2017 for Fox, additional curriculum decreases are expected in spring 2018.
“In Fox’s case, that will mean … a 12 percent decrease to the total spring 2018 curriculum relative to spring 2017,” Bultman said.
Had the UW System not sent relief funds UW-Fox’s way, the campus and region’s cuts would have been more severe, if this fall’s alternative is any indication.
“We would otherwise have had to cut an additional 23 courses across the region [this fall]; 16 of them at Fox,” Bultman said.
Nonetheless, according to a study researched by the applied population laboratory at UW Madison, high school enrollment rates are on the rise, after having steadily declined from year to year.
Enrollment rates at the UW Colleges have closely followed those of high schools, generally speaking, so Bultman expects a similar growth to possibly offset the lack of relief funding.
“There’s been a decrease for a number of years in a row by a couple of percent. They’re right at the bottom of the trough,” Bultman said. “They’re expected to remain about steady for the next [academic] year, and they’re going to slightly increase from there. We’re kind of at the bottom of a loop, [but] I think it’s reasonable to expect to get back up to the levels of last year as to regain that 14 percent that we lost.”
This semester, though, out of the 17 canceled sections, seven were those played a potentially adverse role on students and faculty.
One such course was BIO 211, Genetics, a single-section course which would have originally been taught by Dubear Kroening, professor of biological sciences at UW-Fox Valley. Students this fall currently have no option to take Genetics on campus.
As a tenured professor, Kroening was assigned a BIO 101, Concepts of Biology, section in favor of an adjunct professor who would have taught it. However, Kroening had misgivings toward the idea and planned to teach an online course instead.
“I was going to teach an online class, but they canceled it and said I couldn’t teach it. I had to teach on this campus, and for me to do that, I had to bump an adjunct professor, and that bothered me,” Kroening said. “I thought it would hurt another professor to the point [of losing] their health insurance and benefits.”
That ended up not being the case for this particular adjunct professor.
“It turned out the person who was my backup in case BIO 211 did run ended up having some classes cut on the campus she’s on, so by teaching online, it brought her above [the qualifying level for insurance] … so it didn’t hurt the benefits,” Kroening said.
That outcome, however, may not have been as favorable for other adjunct professors in the UW Colleges.
“For the adjunct professors, that is a problem, some of them lost a significant amount of their employment and that is the nature of being adjunct. That’s something that worries the faculty,” Bultman said. “In seven of those [cancelations], there were people that were teaching the classes, and in at least one of the cases, it’s someone who is no longer employed with us.”
Kroening indicated the necessity of adjunct instructors to search for additional options in the event of low enrollment.
“Adjunct professors would have to find courses to teach either here or at another institution. Sometimes you have to make due—that’s how it works,” Kroening said.
Relief funds were not the only initiative the UW Colleges used to offset enrollment declines, though. The UW Colleges restructured their college recruiting program between March and April 2016 in the hopes of bringing in new applicants.
The new model involved segmenting the state’s high schools across eight distinct “territories,” hiring one college resource counselor per territory to recruit in each section on a full-time basis.
“At this time, the eight college resource counselors cover more than 500 high schools in the state. In the past, it was not possible for staff members from the campuses to serve all high schools in a surrounding region,” Aubrey Schramm, UW Colleges manager of statewide recruiting, said.
Schramm believes the recruiting model will increase enrollment percentages, somewhat offsetting the enrollment declines.
“High school senior class sizes have been on the decline, so while sheer numbers may not increase, we believe that our percentage of applications will increase. We look forward to establishing a base line so we can assess, evaluate and further develop the plan as we move forward,” Schramm said.
She also indicated the importance of building a rapport with students as an important key to maintaining enrollment figures.
“Our college resource counselors are working hard to develop strong relationships with our high school counselors and schools. We have found that many of our schools are not fully aware of what the UW Colleges offer, so we are working hard to share that information throughout the state,” Schramm said. “We are confident that we will make a deep impact in the long-term.”
Rodee Schneider, associate director of marketing and enrollment at the UW Colleges, asserted the role marketing has on enrollment, saying that everyone from college resource counselors, to content creators and to web designers are important in maintaining student enrollment.
“All the things our office is engaged in impact enrollment numbers. [Advertising] in a way that resonates with our prospective students—whether it’s through a digital ad, radio spot, email, webpage or social media content—is our daily mission, and it’s one that we’re confident will positively impact enrollment,” Schneider said.
The 10 canceled managed curriculum courses included ENG 102, LEA 102, MAT 091, MAT 105, PHI 101 and PSY 202, and two sections of ENG 098 and LEA 103 each. The four other non-mananaged curriculum courses were CHE 165, HIS 105, LEA 102, and MATH 090. The three now-unavailable courses included BIO 211, ART 111, and PSY 307.