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After five years of state budget cuts capped by the latest drop in funding, educators throughout North Carolina’s 16-member state university system are prioritizing, consolidating and trimming academic programs. This is the third article in a series on the ramifications for WNC’s universities. Read about changes at UNC Asheville here. Read about changes at Western Carolina University here.
Low enrollment and ongoing state budget cuts have prompted Appalachian State University to discontinue some majors either by dropping them or consolidating them with other programs.
The changes are meant to make ASU operate more efficiently to adjust to the $34 million in reductions in state funding the university has been hit with since 2008.
“We all want to do the right thing — serve the region while being responsible stewards of the resources we receive from the state,” Edelma Huntley, dean of ASU’s Cratis D. Williams Graduate School, said in a recent email. “Our program prioritization process will enable us to determine where potential growth is while also making difficult decisions about eliminating programs that have lost demand.”
At the undergraduate level, the statistics major is being eliminated this fall but will be available as a concentration in mathematics. Majors in theater arts education (kindergarten through high school), and in French and Francophone studies, are being combined with other programs on campus.
ASU is also consolidating the secondary science education degrees into their parent sciences. For example, students who want to teach physics in high school will now work toward a bachelor of science degree in physics with a concentration in secondary education. Formerly, they would have pursued a stand-alone degree in physics/secondary education.
The prioritization reviews of the undergraduate and graduate programs are ongoing and will likely result in more significant changes in fall 2014, said Mike Mayfield, vice provost for undergraduate education. He is directing the review of the undergraduate programs. Huntley is leading the review of the graduate programs.
Every two years, the UNC general administration reviews its 16 universities’ “low-performing” programs (as measured by the number of degrees granted and the upper classmen and graduates enrolled, among other metrics) and asks the universities to recommend how the programs can be improved, modified or eliminated. ASU has already reviewed its lowest performing undergraduate programs and is now reviewing its better performing ones, Mayfield said.
ASU’s graduate school is also in the middle of its program prioritization review and should have reports this fall, Huntley said in a recent interview.
The UNC general administration office has identified 10 ASU graduate programs as low-performing. Seventeen of the programs have enrollment levels above the minimum set by UNC but have either been low-performing in the past or are beset by such problems as too many requests for time extension, inability to recruit North Carolina students and competition from online programs. Eighteen programs have healthy enrollments and, if resources allow, could be expanded.
The low-performing graduate programs have been told to submit plans to increase enrollment. Consolidation of classes isn’t possible because, unlike undergraduate programs, graduate programs are discipline-specific, Huntley said.
One big change has already been made at ASU: The graduate program in English education has been eliminated because no one enrolled. “It didn’t look salvageable,” Huntley said. But otherwise, she said, it would be “premature” to talk about program prioritization until all of the programs submit their reports.
“We’re doing this as carefully as possible because cutting programs is a very drastic step,” she said. “We want to make sure we have all the right information before we do anything like that.”
ASU’s reviews were already underway when the UNC Board of Governors approved the UNC system’s five-year strategic plan in February 2013. The plan, which can be read in its entirety below, calls for the UNC universities to become more efficient with state allocations. Mayfield said that plan has had “relatively little influence” on ASU’s current program prioritization, something it and all UNC universities do every two years anyway.
The UNC general administration, which oversees the universities, was already calling for many of the efficiencies that the five-year strategic plan call for, Mayfield said. The plan, however, reinforced the need to restructure or eliminate low-performing programs, which in the past had been allowed to pass through reviews without having to make many changes, Mayfield said.
“Now there is a much greater sense of urgency and prioritization that will in all likelihood lead to the elimination of some of the programs,” he said. “Every campus in the UNC system is taking a broader view of all it does to find where it should invest its resources and prepare students.”
The UNC system’s five-year strategic plan, issued in February 2013.
Here’s one way to bolster this school and others in the system. With a system-wide graduation rate of about 53%, ASU rises above with an overall graduation rate of 65%. Black students have a graduation rate of 44%. (IPEDs numbers which may be a little different since my last research a year or so ago.)
Put another way, the banner across any admissions form and on the front page of the school website should read, “WARNING. YOU HAVE A 35% CHANCE OF NOT COMPLETING YOUR DEGREE WITHIN 6 YEARS AT THIS INSTITUTION. YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR MONEY BACK AND WE WILL NOT GIVE THE GRANT MONEY BACK TO THE FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS.” IF YOU ARE BLACK OR AFRO-AMERICAN, IT IS UNLIKELY THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED HERE AS 56% OF YOU WILL FAIL.”
Now, imagine, a state school that graduated students in the 95+% range. Then students from all over would flock to the school of success that they want to be a part of and grant monies would then be solid investments.
For comparison, here are the rates for the rest of the system. In other words, stop wasting our money, failing students, blaming the lack of success on community colleges (NC avg graduate rate in the low 20% range- Martin CC at 4%, AB Tax at 19%), parents, and K-12 and do your jobs.
Chapel Hill 89* 81*
NC State 72 59
Wilmington 67 68
Appalachian 65 44
School of Arts 64 64
Asheville 61 55
Eastern 59 53
Greensboro 53 60
Charlotte 53 54
Western 50 48
Elizabeth City 44 45
Winston-Salem 41 42
NC A&T 41 41
NC Central 38 36
Pembroke 34 34
Fayetteville 31 31
Average 53.87 50.94
*Chapel Hill’s numbers may not be reliable. They may be added up in the athletic department.
Duke 94 90