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Wisconsin Officials Consider Community College Baccalaureate Plan

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Adults who have some college credits but never finished four-year degrees could earn their diplomas at one of the state’s 13 two-year colleges, under a proposal being developed by University of Wisconsin System officials.

The proposal is part of a growing focus on boosting per-capita income in a job market where recruiters increasingly demand bachelor’s degrees.

Dr. David Wilson, chancellor of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension, expects to submit the proposal at the March meeting of the Board of Regents. Under the plan, the two-year colleges would expand their mission by granting their own four-year degree to a targeted group of adult students.

Currently the colleges grant only associate degrees and certificates.

Wisconsin lags several neighboring states in the number of residents 25 years and older with baccalaureate degrees. About 25 percent of residents here have the degrees, about 4 percentage points fewer than in Illinois and 5 points fewer than in Minnesota, according to 2006 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Any plan to allow UW Colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees would require approval from the regents, and perhaps from state legislators and college accrediting bodies.

Specific details on the proposed restricted degree — such as how much it would cost or how many course units it would require — are still being worked out. Wilson said he was waiting for the go-ahead from the regents before putting together a final plan.

At a broad level, if the proposed mission change is approved, students could earn bachelor’s degrees of applied arts and sciences from a two-year college.

There are already a number of collaborative programs among technical colleges, two-year and four-year campuses. For example, students who complete general education requirements at Fox Valley Technical College can transfer to UW-Oshkosh or UW-Green Bay with sophomore status.

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