Wisconsin college leaders will take a close look in the coming weeks at President Joe Biden’s plan for a free community college program, which could influence already precarious enrollment patterns at schools struggling to fill seats.
Education experts agree the national program could be a boon to the Wisconsin Technical College System. But it could also potentially siphon some students away from four-year universities, some of which are up against declining demographics.
Even less clear is the fate of the University of Wisconsin System’s branch campuses, which have recently been restructured in a way that one expert said may jeopardize whether the schools could be included in Biden’s plan. These campuses, previously referred to as two-year schools, still primarily award associate degrees but some of them now also offer bachelor’s degree programs.
Biden’s proposed $109 billion program would fund free tuition at public two-year colleges, which serve a diverse population of students. Two-year schools are expected to play a major role in rebuilding the economy post-pandemic by supporting workers who need new skills or vocational training.
“We share the President’s commitment to making technical college education accessible and affordable for all students,” Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement. “Given the complexities of a national approach, we look forward to learning additional details of his proposal.”