At the University of Wyoming, there are now 16 programs under review for possible elimination.
“I do think it’s safe to say that universities across the country have had to make tough decisions and eliminate some programs in recent years,” said Chad Baldwin, UW’s associate vice president for communications and marketing. March saw the beginning of the first program review that’s taken place at UW in likely more than a decade, Baldwin said.
All degree programs were up for review by UW’s Academic Affairs department, with the first groups considered for elimination triggered by low degree production. Some programs are being eliminated to allow departments to focus on different levels of degrees for those programs, while others could be consolidated under other departments, Provost Kate Miller says in a UW news release.
Students currently enrolled in the degree programs proposed for elimination would be allowed to complete their degrees.
In any case, the academic affairs department has been firm in its position that, “There will be no adverse impact on students,” Miller says in a news release.
Baldwin said he knows there’s no way to eliminate programs and keep everyone on campus happy. As a whole, he said he doesn’t think eliminating the programs currently on the chopping block would be a downgrade for UW.
“I don’t think eliminating 16 out of more than 200 is substantial (enough) that it would lower our standing in any way at all,” Baldwin said. “We’re not doing a wholesale elimination of anything as far as I can see. I think if you look at our lineup of degrees, we’re still — for our size — offering a whole bunch, relatively speaking.”
Even with the trigger to identify programs focusing on low degree production, Baldwin said numbers of students enrolled and degrees earned was not the only consideration. Rather, he said the process did and will employ a comprehensive array of considerations.
“There’s a whole list of considerations in this process from the numbers of graduates produced to the centrality of the program to the university’s mission to job market issues,” Baldwin said. “This is about identifying low enrollment programs and seeing if they can be improved. At a certain point, we have to ask, ‘Why are we doing this if the numbers aren’t there?’ Close to 50 were reviewed, and all but 16 are being maintained.”
In a news release, Miller says cost savings of degree program elimination are not being considered as UW looks to cut another $15 million in the 2017-2018 budget.
“I think there was the idea that it was tied in with the budget cutting exercise we’re going to have to do, but the provost made it clear this is not about financial savings, per se,” Baldwin said. “It’s about making sure we’re meeting the states needs the best we can.”
The rationale for each dean’s recommendation for the provost is available at www.uwyo.edu/acadaffairs/program-review. In the upper left hand corner of the page, all of the documentation used in the degree program review is available to the public, Baldwin said.
“It gives you a narrative for each dean as to what and why they are proposing what they are,” he said.
During a meeting with the Laramie City Council, UW President Laurie Nichols said UW is looking to boost the state’s economy by encouraging students to major in programs that would drive growth, such as computer science, Nichols said. Additionally, as UW looks to eliminate programs, Nichols said cut programs could be replaced with some more applicable to employment sectors relevant to economic growth, including potentially offering degrees in tourism and expanding entrepreneurial degree programs.
Reactions on campus have run the gamut from alarm to understanding to indifference. Part of UW’s regulations calls for a 60-day period for responses from department heads and deans, as well as anyone else wishing to comment. Miller then has 10 days to submit the proposals and comments to student, staff and faculty senates for review.
Though the deadline for the comment period was initially set for Nov. 19, a second news release came Sept. 23 extending the deadline. Baldwin said the beginning of the comment period is triggered when written notifications are distributed to all students and faculty in the programs proposed for elimination — something that did not happen with the first news release Sept. 20.
A final timeline is yet to be determined, but Nichols’ tentatively plans to present Miller’s and her own recommendations to the Board of Trustees during its May or June meetings.