In Wisconsin, College Dreams Grow Dimmer for Rural Students

La Crosse Tribune

.....Many rural students in Wisconsin are finding it increasingly difficult to access higher education.

In the last 18 months, the Universities of Wisconsin has effectively closed five of the system’s branch campuses, most of which predominantly served rural students. The UW system cites declining enrollment, not finances, as the reason, even as the system projects that 13 campuses would be a cumulative $60 million over budget by the end of fiscal 2024.....

.....Most college students are commuters, said Alyssa Ratledge, a postsecondary education researcher for nonprofit education and social policy organization MDRC, also known as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. Nationally, more than half of four-year university students and 80% of two-year college students go to school within 25 miles of home.

“If you live in a place where there is not a college within 25 miles of your home, you really have to make a different decision about what that looks like for you,” Ratledge said. “One of the things that we see is that particularly if you're living in a place where not a lot of the people in your family or your community have gone to college before, graduated from college, you might think, ‘Well, it still would really be a hassle for me to go to college, so maybe I will stay here,’ and not pursue it entirely."

College participation rates in Wisconsin have decreased overall by 14% since 2019.....

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