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The presidents of 14 southeastern Wisconsin colleges and universities are urging Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to allow in-person instruction on their campuses this fall, according to a copy of a letter obtained by BizTimes Milwaukee. After each sustaining “millions of dollars” in losses from pivoting to remote learning in the spring and summer semesters, their institutions would see losses in the “tens of millions” if they have to forgo in-person classes, the higher education leaders said in a letter sent to Barrett’s office Tuesday. The letter is penned by members of the Higher Education Regional Alliance, which is chaired by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chancellor Mark Mone and represents many of the region’s public and private universities and technical colleges. Under the city’s current public health order, higher education institutions must remain closed for in-person instruction and extracurricular activities. The higher ed leaders said students are eager to return to campus in the fall, citing a recent Carnegie Dartlet study that found 95% of incoming freshmen would attend the college they committed to if it reopened with social distancing measures in place. A third of high school seniors surveyed said they would defer or cancel an admission offer if they were to attend an all-online college in the fall, according to the same study. Many colleges are bracing themselves for a dip in enrollment this fall. Marquette has said its undergraduate enrollment is 16% below what it had budgeted for incoming students. The university is now carrying out a cost-cutting plan to close the financial gap created by a smaller than expected incoming freshman class and increased expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.Prohibiting in-person instruction would also have a significant economic impact on the surrounding community, the leaders noted in the letter. “Without in-person instruction, the jobs that were part of furloughs when campuses abruptly shifted to remote learning may not resume. The neighborhood businesses that rely on campus populations are struggling and will continue to experience greater economic hardships if in-person instruction is not permitted,” the letter said. Signers of the letter include Mone, Milwaukee Area Technical College president Vicki Martin, Marquette University president Michael Lovell, Milwaukee School of Engineering president John Walz, Wisconsin Lutheran president Daniel Johnson, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design president Jeff Morin, Alverno College president Andrea Lee, Herzing University president Renee Herzing, Gateway Technical College president Bryan Albrecht, Carthage College president John Swallow, UW-Parkside president Deborah Ford, Cardinal Stritch University acting president Daniel Scholz, Mount Mary University president Christine Pharr and UW-Whitewater chancellor Dwight Watson. The letter was also co-signed by Greater Milwaukee Committee president Julia Taylor, Milwaukee Succeeds executive director Danae Davis, Higher Expectations for Racine County executive director Jeff Neubauer, Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee interim executive director Kim Schultz, Milwaukee 7 executive director Pat O’Brien, and Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities president Rolf Wegenke.The higher ed leaders requested that the city amend its health order, effective Aug. 1, to allow their higher education institutions to reopen and “determine policies and practices for safe operations.” They cited health orders in Dane County that went into effect Monday allowing colleges to reopen with strict safety measures in place for dormitories and face covering requirements in public spaces. The Milwaukee-area college leaders said they intend to enact those measures when they resume instruction in the fall, with a combination of in-person, hybrid and online formats. Under the city of Milwaukee’s five-phased reopening plan, higher education institutions are not allowed to fully reopen until phase 5. The city is currently in phase 4, and progression to the next phase is based on the number of COVID-19 cases in the city, testing and contact tracing capacity, hospitalizations and hospital capacity, and PPE availability. The city plans to reassess those gating criteria July 17. The higher ed leaders noted they need maximum time to communicate with their students and families, faculty and staff about whether they will resume in-person instruction in the fall. The mayor’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.