Much work remains to be done, but if plans stay on track, UW-Rock County and UW-Whitewater officially will merge by July 1, UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper said Monday.

Addressing the Janesville City Council, Kopper shared an update on the UW System’s restructuring plan, which calls for four-year campuses to absorb two-year campuses. Under the plan, UW-Whitewater would absorb UW-Rock County.

Not literally, of course. UW-Rock County would remain at its current location, but its students and staff would become part of UW-Whitewater. Students working on degrees at UW-Rock County would earn diplomas from UW-Whitewater.

The biggest hurdle the campuses must overcome is accreditation. Once that’s finalized, there will be little in the way of the merger, Kopper said.

UW-Rock County has entertained the idea of adding student housing to its campus. That’s still possible under the pending merger, though Kopper couldn’t offer specifics.

“I would be very excited about there being a residence hall on the Rock County campus,” she said.

As officials from both campuses began discussing the merger, Kopper said she was “delighted” to find both campuses have similar core values when it comes to student success, affordability and commitment to serving surrounding communities.

Councilman Jim Farrell asked if the merger would affect students’ ability to transfer to other universities or for UW-Rock County students to attend classes in Whitewater.

Kopper said officials are seeking ways to not only maintain those opportunities, but expand them.

She said she hopes four-year programs could come to UW-Rock County and create more options for high school students, online students and nontraditional students such as veterans.

Rock County owns and maintains UW-Rock County’s buildings and land, but officials have set up a committee to look at how the colleges would be governed to meet both campuses’ needs, Kopper said.

The merger is a response to declining enrollment across the UW System. While declining enrollment isn’t unique to the UW System or the state, officials hope merging will make the colleges more efficient and solve problems, Kopper said.

“From the beginning, we really wanted this to be a collaborative effort, certainly a partnership,” she said. “I am very excited about this. I see a lot of opportunity for more partnerships.”

Also Monday, the council indefinitely tabled an ordinance that would have added a $20 city fee on top of the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin’s $35 fee to reclaim a lost pet.

The fee would have been billed to any Janesville resident who reclaimed a pet from the humane society after the society informed the city of the transaction.

James Hurley, humane society assistant executive director, said the ordinance would discourage residents from reclaiming lost pets.

Councilman Tom Wolfe made a motion to defeat the ordinance with the hope city and humane society officials would collaboratively brainstorm ways to increase pet licensing. If more Janesville pets were licensed, the city would get more money to offset animal control costs.

Councilman Rich Gruber made a motion to instead table the ordinance, which passed 4-3.

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