UW System President Ray Cross says his plan to merge UW’s two-year schools with four-year universities would expand the reach of the larger schools and keep the smaller schools in local communities.

Cross appeared Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. His proposal is meant to address declining enrollment at UW Colleges, which Cross attributes to flat population growth among college-age people.

Under his plan, the 13 smaller schools would become branches of nearby, larger UW campuses. The plan will go before the Board of Regents next month.

“What we do know is that more students need more bachelor’s degrees and those institutions are transfer institutions,” Cross said of the UW Colleges.

“So we’re trying to manage the access by expanding the kind of programs we bring to those campuses,” he said.

“We may not grow a lot of enrollment, but hopefully we will grow four-year graduates through this process,” Cross said.

Gousha asked Cross if he had considered closing any of the two-year colleges. Cross said that was considered, but “just isn’t a good option.”

“Those communities are already struggling, many of them, given the demographic changes, a loss of business, and other things,” Cross said. “The presence of the university in those communities is so important to their future, and we’re committed to that.”

Gousha also asked if there will be a cost savings through the merger plan. Cross said a projected dollar amount of savings is not yet known.

“A lot of that is going to flow together over the next few months through the implementation plan,” he said, noting that the two-year campuses have already saved money by consolidating some functions.

Matt Flynn, the latest Dem to declare a bid for governor, also appeared on the program.

Flynn is a Milwaukee attorney and former state Democratic Party chairman who has made previous, unsuccessful runs for U.S. House and Senate.

“I think we need a change in direction in this state,” Flynn said. “We need to take our state back.”

Flynn said Republican incumbent Gov. Scott Walker has had eight years to put out his vision for the state. Flynn said Walker’s vision is flawed.

“I think that he has strayed from the progressive tradition of Wisconsin that’s gone on for the last hundred years since Fighting Bob (LaFollette), and there’s so many issues I’d change, it’s hard to list them all,” Flynn said.

Flynn joins a crowded field of Democratic candidates for governor in 2018. Gousha asked Flynn if he got into the race because he was unimpressed with the current field.

“I like them. I think it’s a strong field, and I’ll say two things. One is, any one of them would make a better governor than Scott Walker, and I would support any one of them if they were the nominee.

“But number two is, there is one issue in this race: Who can beat Scott Walker? And I think I am the most capable of beating Scott Walker,” Flynn said.

Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College, appeared on the program to discuss how Gateway and other colleges and universities in southeastern Wisconsin are preparing for the workforce demand challenge that will be presented by Foxconn.

The Taiwanese electronics giant plans to construct a huge, LCD panel plant in Mt. Pleasant that will employ 3,000 people to start, and eventually as many as 13,000.

“We’re ready. I’m optimistic that we’re ready. Our college and other colleges have been preparing for this type of transformation,” Albrecht said.

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