Administrators at the University of Idaho are considering eliminating 32 degree programs and consolidating nine others as part of a strategy to focus on the school’s strengths in an era of shrinking resources.
Overall, the university offers more than 200 degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The 41 programs recommended to be dropped and consolidated serve about 200 students.
University officials say the decision to scale back educational programming — including master’s degrees in physical education and undergraduate degrees in physics — is not directly linked to the state budget crisis and its impact on higher education.
“What you see today is really the culmination of a great deal of collaboration and serious work to understand how we can reduce our scope and focus our activities to be a stronger institution,” said Provost Doug Baker. “The next step is to focus on what do we want to do, what are the big areas we want to focus on going forward.”
Interim President Steven Daley-Laursen says none of the recommended program cuts will lead to the closing of their respective departments. There also will be no immediate loss of jobs, he said. Any cuts in degree programs will likely be gradual because of a rule barring elimination of programs as long as students are enrolled.
The proposed changes still face an internal review and approval by the state Board of Education.
University officials considered several factors in creating the list, including the number of enrolled students, faculty-to-student ratios and demand for graduates, Baker said.
“You can’t be everything to everybody,” Baker said.
All of Idaho’s public universities are facing budget holdbacks and the threat of funding cuts amid the state and national economic downturns.
Idaho’s four-year schools are due to get $28 million less from the state in the coming fiscal year under Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s recommendation. That’s 9.9 percent less than the original appropriation for the current fiscal year. State funding represents 70 percent of schools’ budgets, with tuition and fees covering the rest.
Campus officials say they are considering raising tuition and fees to help offset some of the cuts. For the 2009-2010 year, the University of Idaho, Boise State, Idaho State and Lewis-Clark State College could raise tuition by up to 10 percent.
Daley-Laursen said that by dropping certain degree programs, the university can better focus faculty and staff to classes deemed more critical to the school’s overall mission.
Among the programs recommended for elimination are the Master of Science in Educational Leadership, Master of Science in Special Education, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, Bachelor of Arts in German, Master of Science in Architecture and Master of Science in Fisheries Resources.
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