History of the UW Colleges

The UW Colleges was a single institution offering a freshman and sophomore level liberal arts education and consisted of 13 regional campuses and UW Colleges Online. The campuses were owned by the counties and/or municipalities where they were located but were a fully integrated unit of the University of Wisconsin System. The UW Colleges was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to award an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree for the completion of 60 general education credits.

UW Colleges was created in approximately its current form after World War II when the Board of Regents adopted a formal policy encouraging counties and municipalities to provide land and buildings for use by the University of Wisconsin. At that time, the campuses were part of the UW-Extension.

Starting in 1971, when a merger joined the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State University systems into a single University of Wisconsin System, the campuses became part of the UW System operating as a single institution. The campuses adopted the University of Wisconsin Colleges name in 1997.

The mission of University of Wisconsin Colleges was preparing students for success at the baccalaureate level of education, providing the first two years of a liberal arts general education that was accessible and affordable, providing a single baccalaureate degree that met local and individual needs, and advance the Wisconsin Idea by bringing the resources of the University to the people of the state and the communities that provided support for campuses.

In 2005 the Board of Regents placed the UW Colleges and UW-Extension under a single chancellor and administration, and the two institutions had separate provosts and retained their individual identities and missions.

BAAS History: The Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) degree was a 60-credit degree completion program offered at six University of Wisconsin Colleges campuses and in partnership with six UW four-year partner institutions. The BAAS program was a hands-on collaborative program that allowed students to learn when their schedule allowed all while gaining valuable skills that employers are looking for. After students had earned an associate or applied associate degree, they could complete the BAAS program and move on to their dream job in as little as two years. 

On November 9, 2017, the Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan to restructure the UW System. The Higher Learning Commission approved the restructure application on June 28, 2018. The 13 two-year campuses were joined as branch campuses with seven of the UW-System’s four-year comprehensive or research institutions.