MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Enrollment across the University of Wisconsin System grew slightly in 2023 for the first time since 2014, school officials announced on Thursday.
The positive numbers come at a time when UW continues to fight with the Republican-controlled Legislature over funding and GOP opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Legislative leaders have also yet to implement a pay raise for UW and state employees that was approved as part of the state budget.
On Wednesday, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos renewed his criticism of UW during an interview with WisconsinEye.
“What do they always say if you’re an alcoholic?” Vos said. “The first thing is you have to admit you have a problem and realize that you need to solve it yourself before other people can help you. I feel that’s where the UW System is.”
UW System President Jay Rothman said on a conference call with reporters that he continued to work with Vos and legislative leaders and remained confident that the university would make a compelling case to receive additional funding.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special session for next week to increase funding for UW, but Republican legislative leaders say they won’t do it.
UW campuses are also under financial stress, with UW-Oshkosh announcing in July it would be laying off workers, issuing furloughs and taking other steps to deal with an $18 million budget shortfall. UW-Platteville and UW-Parkside are also both facing budget shortfalls and considering furloughs and other cuts.
Enrollment at Oshkosh was down 1.7%, and Platteville it was up 3.3% and at Parkside it was down just under 1%.
Total enrollment at the flagship UW-Madison campus and at 12 branch campuses grew by 540 students to a total of 161,322. Enrollment fell at eight campuses, while it grew 1.3% in Madison.
The largest percentage growth was 3.4% at UW-Whitewater, while the steepest drop was 3.5% at UW-Stout.
Rothman said the numbers show a continuing rebound in freshmen students that is a “great sign” because that signals stronger overall enrollment.
The estimates are based on first-day registration numbers and projections of other new students.
Total enrollment at the Madison campus was 50,255, up from 49,587 last fall.