In a strategic move designed to focus on key student success initiatives and better position the institution for future success in a rapidly changing higher education landscape, the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents has approved several changes in academic programs.
The Board, meeting in special session on Monday, Dec. 5, earmarked several academic programs for redesign to be more efficient and marketable, and other programs for suspension. In all cases, the decisions were based on enrollment and graduation numbers, among other factors, and followed almost a year of discussions and review.
The EKU Vision for 2020 Strategic Plan specifically outlines strategies to strengthen academic programs, including ongoing academic review. As outlined in the Strategic Plan, program review seeks to:
· ensure relevance of all academic programs.
· financially invest in and promote nationally recognized programs that attract students to EKU.
· increase capacity in existing programs identified as having high demand.
“It is a fact that the changes to state funding (cuts in appropriations and yet-to-be-finalized performance-based metrics) brought new urgency to the need for the program review,” said Craig Turner, chair of the Board of Regents. “If we cannot recruit, retain and graduate students from our programs and offer needed support, we will not survive under the new performance-based funding."
In his remarks, EKU President Michael Benson said the University’s “deliberative and participatory” review process focused on the “four fundamental pillars” of EKU’s Strategic Plan: academic distinction and excellence, student success and student experience, service to the region and campus revitalization.
“All of this was to be accomplished with an unrelenting commitment to sound financial management and being responsible stewards of the state’s investment in us as a public institution. We have endeavored to be transparent and communicative throughout and will continue to do so as we move forward. I thank the Board for its trust in us as a leadership team and thank my colleagues for their willingness to make hard decisions in an effort to move the University forward and to place us in a position where we can be successful now and into the future.”
Although the University will continue to offer courses in the following disciplines, the Board approved suspension of these degree programs:
· B.A. and minor in Comparative Humanities
· B.A. in English/Theatre Concentration (The theatre minor will be retained, and two theatre certificates established. EKU Theatre public performances will continue, though maybe fewer in number.)
· B.A. in English, Theatre Teaching
· B.A. and minor in French
· B.A. in French Teaching
· MBA Concentration in Accounting
· MBA Concentration in Integrated Communication
· Associate of Applied Science, Science for Engineering
The approximately 160 students now enrolled in those degree programs will be able to complete their degrees.
“Our curriculum is dynamic, based on student demand and market demand,” said Provost Dr. Janna Vice. “It is not uncommon for the University to suspend programs, as a result of continual review. We want to be able to continue investing in successful programs for which we know there is a demand.”
The Board also approved a redesign of the following programs in order to help them become more marketable:
· B.S. and minor in Horticulture (degree to become a Concentration in Agriculture)
· B.A. and minor in Journalism (degree to become a Concentration in Broadcast and Electronic Media). The Eastern Progress, a student-produced weekly campus newspaper, will continue to be published.
· B.A. and minor in Geography (degree to be converted to a degree in Geographic Information Systems)
The Regents said the following programs would be retained, but with a cost reduction by Spring 2017:
· Minor in Religion
· Minor in Social Intelligence and Leadership Studies
· B.A., Technical Writing Concentration in English
Also, a minor in Applied Ethics will be retained and re-evaluated in 2018.
In all, the changes will result in a savings of approximately $615,000, but will not result in the loss of any tenured faculty. When possible, faculty from suspended programs will be reassigned.
Dr. Tom Otieno, interim dean of the College of Science, said he was “struck by the willingness of all the players at the department, college and university levels to work collaboratively. We talked candidly and shared ideas and information, we were patient with one another, we considered each other’s perspective thoughtfully, and we worked hard together. Consequently, we were able to arrive at creative solutions to very challenging issues. For example, rather than close the Geography program, the department has the opportunity to redesign the program and offer a degree in Geographic Information Systems instead, an area with demonstrable demand.”
The University is facing a $11.1 million budget shortfall for 2017-18, which includes a 4.5 percent ($3.1 million) cut in state appropriations, as well as a $2.7 million increase in contributions to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, an increase of $1 million due to changes in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, $2.8 million increase in scholarships, and a $1.5 million increase in fixed and unavoidable costs. The Board also approved a $2 million reserve for strategic investment in response to performance-based funding measures, bringing the total to $13.1 million.
Already, the administration has taken actions touching every area of the University to reduce the total recurring budget impact to approximately $9 million. An Enhanced Retirement Transition Program (ERTP), announced earlier this fall, will continue through the Spring 2017 semester. The ERTP, along with other retirements and attrition, is expected to generate savings of $2.4 million. Additionally, the Board approved an operational savings goal of $1.5 million and an increased revenue goal of $2.6 million. In total, actions approved today reduced the total remaining budget impact to $2 million.
“We have to be good stewards of the investments in EKU,” Turner said. “Whether it is state funding, tuition dollars or a donor’s gift, all deserve a return on their investment.”
Eastern continues to provide the second largest number of program offerings among all Kentucky regional universities.