UWEC-Barron County and the rest of the University of Wisconsin System plan to have campus open to students this Fall, albeit with some changes.
System President Ray Cross told the Board of Regents this month, “We will be back in session in fall. How we deliver that, it won’t be normal. It will be different.”
On May 6, UW Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt announced a Fall Planning Team will be formed to get Eau Claire and its Rice Lake branch ready for Fall 2020.
The team will consider COVID-19’s impact on health management, campus living and student life, academics and high-impact practices and the campus environment and infrastructure.
COVID-19 has caused higher education around the country to move to online courses which was resulted in financial losses due to things like refunded housing and parking fees from students sent off-campus, and the loss of ticket and concession fees from canceled sporting events.
The University of Wisconsin System is expected to lose $212 million by the end of the summer semester, and UW-Eau Claire, which includes the Barron County campus, is expected to be out nearly $10.3 million.
The System hopes the financial loss will balance out to less than $100 million with the help of $47 million in Federal aid and budget cuts.
Cross told the Board of Regents that campuses will have to make short-term cuts and long-term plans on cutting staff and consolidating course offerings to make ends meet.
The Eau Claire branch announced on May 14 it will be freezing all nonessential travel, reducing operating costs by 33% and furloughing employees.
UWEC Chancellor Schmidt had announced furloughing 222 employees, which would save more than $500,000, but upped that last week to include all faculty and staff beginning to August.
Furloughs will range from 6-12 days, but the days will not exceed one per pay period.
Schmidt, his executive staff, associate vice chancellors and deans will take a temporary pay cut of 6.5%, which is equivalent to 17 furlough days, according to the announcement.
Enrollment at Barron County is up compared to last year, Campus Director Brittany K. Nielsen said, due to the school’s Launch program.
Launch allows students to use the Eau Claire campus facilities, but the students are admitted through Barron County.
Physical enrollment, students who will be on Barron’s campus, is lower than this time last spring, Nielsen said.
In a bid to increase enrollment, the school is offering a free application time frame from June 5- 15 and is waiving entry tests scores like the SAT and ACT.
UWEC-Barron County is hosting a virtual exploration event June 5 that will give potential students and parents an opportunity to interact live with staff and current students.
Schools around the country hope that the current distance learning courses implemented this spring do not continue into the fall, but the biggest system in the country has already decided to stay online.
The University of California System has announced its courses will be primarily online this fall but with the flexibility to meet in person as the semester progresses.
Other schools are looking at keeping in-person interaction down through schedule manipulation. The private Wisconsin institution Beloit College announced it will be sectioning each 20-21 semester in half. Instead of taking four classes at a time, students will take two intensive, 8-week classes.
In the University of Wisconsin System it’s likely that 200 student lecture hall courses will be moved online and some other courses will be taught in a hybrid online-in person format.
Specific plans have not been released as the System follows the situation into the summer semester.