UW merger plan concerns UW-Stout

A plan to merge the University of Wisconsin System’s 13 two-year colleges with the UW’s four-year institutions next summer has the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie concerned about losing prospective students.

The plan would transform the system’s 13 two-year schools into regional branches of the 13 four-year schools. Students would still be able to earn associate degrees, but they would bear the name of the four-year school. Students would get a wider range of courses to choose from and be able to take third- and fourth-year courses at the branch campus.

For example, two-year school UW-Barron County would cease to exist. Its buildings, faculty and staff would become a branch of UW-Eau Claire. Students who attend the branch campus would earn associate degrees from UW-Eau Claire and could complete four-year degrees through UW-Eau Claire.

“I…will do everything possible to maintain our historical link to UW-Barron County and remain a top choice for students who start their education there and continue to a four-year degree,” UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer said in a press release.

“In 2015-16, for example, more than a quarter of the UW-Barron County students who transferred to UW System institutions chose UW-Stout, and we must preserve that transfer pipeline.”

UW System enrollment figures show UW-Barron County has fallen in full-time equivalent student enrollment from 484 in 2010 to 315 in a preliminary count from fall 2017. That’s a drop of 169 students, or 35 percent.

Cross said the merger would be done effective July 1, 2018. “Essentially, there will be no change this fall or spring, and we look forward to seeing how to best leverage UW-Eau Claire to expand access to higher education by offering more general education and upper-level courses, as well as identify and reduce barriers to transferring credits within the UW System,” Cross said in an email to the UW-Eau Claire.

Chancellor James C. Schmidt said in an email to facility, staff and UW-Eau Claire students: “While it is too soon to identify all the opportunities this new structure could bring to students here and in Barron County, we do know that meeting the needs of students at both campuses will be our highest priority.”

Schmidt continued in the email: “UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County long have enjoyed an excellent relationship, with many students beginning their college careers in Rice Lake and completing their degrees in Eau Claire.”

Schmidt said he will talk in future weeks with faculty students and community leaders in the Chippewa Valley and Barron County to find ways to move forward.

Besides pairing UW-Barron County with UW-Eau Claire, the proposal would bring each UW Colleges campus under one of six other four-year public universities:

The Rock County college would join UW-Whitewater

The Baraboo/Sauk County and Richland colleges would join UW-Platteville

The Manitowoc, Marinette and Sheboygan colleges would join UW-Green Bay

The Washington County and Waukesha colleges would join UW-Milwaukee

The Marathon County and Marshfield/Wood County colleges would join UW-Stevens Point

The Fond du Lac and Fox Valley colleges would join UW-Oshkosh

UW-Stout and UW-River Falls would not be linked to a UW college.

Cross said in a statement that the merger will help the UW address declining enrollment at its two-year colleges, make it easier to transfer credits within the UW System and better address the challenge of Wisconsin’s aging population.

UW Extension programs would also come under new administration as part of the sweeping restructuring plan.

UW Extension’s Broadcasting and Media Innovations division — which includes Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio — would be brought under UW System Administration, along with the Business and Entrepreneurship Division, continuing education, outreach and UW Flexible Option programs. Cooperative Extension and conference centers owned by UW Extension would be merged with UW-Madison.

Cross said in a statement that the merger will help UW address declining enrollment at its two-year colleges, make it easier to transfer credits within the UW System and better address the challenge of Wisconsin’s aging population.

“Change often produces uncertainty, but we cannot be afraid to pursue needed reforms,” he said. “Our goal is to expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported. We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for students, faculty, and staff.”

It’s not immediately clear what the restructuring would mean for programs and jobs in the UW Colleges and Extension.

Cross will bring the proposal to the UW Board of Regents for approval in November, officials said.

The Stratasys-Objet Merger: Going Beyond the Headlines

Jon Cobb, executive VP of global marketing, Stratasys.

The list of major players in rapid prototyping and 3D printing is not a very long one. In fact, if you try to count them with your fingers, you wouldn’t need to use both hands. In that tightly packed corner, a new super pact was formed when 3D Systems acquired Z Corp. this January. Another one emerged last month when Stratasys and Objet came together. That leaves essentially two big names — 3D Systems and Stratasys — as the principle movers of the industry. In this podcast recorded, Jon Cobb, Stratasys’ executive VP of global product marketing, and Bruce Bradshaw, Objet’s director of marketing, clarified the reasons behind the merger and addressed some questions on post-merger operations.

What drew Stratasys and Objet together, according to Cobb, was a mixture of similarities as well as complementary differences. “The two companies are leaders in the industry, so obviously putting together the two premiere players make sense … In technology, Stratasys with its FDM [fused deposit modeling] technology, focuses on durable thermal plastic parts. Objet, with its jetting [technology], focuses on fine featured details, good surface finish, and dual materials.” Objet’s jetting technology also supplements the singular jetting process used by Solidscape, acquired by Stratasys in May 2011, Cobb pointed out.

Bradshaw said, “The fact that we have complementary technologies, and the fact that our distribution channels are so solid, there’s room for all our resellers to continue to sell both product lines. We will, over the next quarter or so, train –we’re referring to it as cross-train — each reseller to learn about the other technologies.”

Bruce Bradshaw, director of marketing, Objet.

The merger, Cobb said, could offer both companies room for growth in aerospace and automotive industries, specifically in aerospace production. There may also be new markets they persue: “Both companies are just getting into that dental market [digitizing dental fixtures and producing them using 3D printers], and if you add what Solidscape has done … you really start to see us moving into a wide range of dental opportunities.”

“Objet has had very good success” in dental market, said Bradshaw, “but that industry itself is also changing … Digital dentistry as referred to today is changing that market rapidly. And Objet’s technology is known as the leader in that space … Having the technology we have and the Stratasys name behind it is going to take us to the next level.” Objet’s penetration of the dental industry could also pushes Solidscape’s participation further in the same market, he added.

The consolidated product lines will fall into three categories:

  • The Idea series, comprising Mojo and uPrint 3D printers (for concept exploration phase).
  • The Design series, comprising most of Objet products (for testing design functions).
  • The Production series, comprising the Fortus brand (for factory-scale production).

As a tease, Cobb said, “You’ll see some things from us that’ll be quite unique in the market” as a result of the merger.

For more, read managing editor Jamie Gooch’s thoughts on the merger, “Reading Between the Layers of the Stratasys-Objet Merger,” September 12. The complete podcast with Jon Cobb and Bruce Bradshaw is available below:

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