UPDATE: MU must evaluate 75 'low-producing' degree programs

All Missouri's public institutions of higher education must evaluate curriculum on tight deadline
Monday, October 4, 2010 | 12:48 p.m. CDT; updated 11:37 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 7, 2010

This story has been corrected to indicate that MU has produced a list of programs with statistics indicating numbers of graduates over the past six years and that MU Chancellor Brady Deaton will meet with faculty in general rather than the MU Faculty Council on Wednesday. It also has been updated to include more specifics about the statistical threshold the Department of Higher Education uses to identify low-producing programs.

COLUMBIA — MU has until Oct. 21 to evaluate programs deemed to be "low-producing" and to tell the Missouri Department of Higher Education whether they will be terminated or why they should be retained.

MU Provost Brian Foster sent MU deans an e-mail on Friday informing them that “under-producing degree programs” are being evaluated. The mandate, handed down by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, stems from Gov. Jay Nixon's call in August for a comprehensive review of higher education in the state.


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“It will be necessary for deans, chairs, and others to talk with each other, to consider merging programs, to find common components that can show reduced costs and to otherwise address the low productivity issue," Foster said in the Friday e-mail. "In appropriate cases, you may wish to consider collaboration with other institutions in Missouri to continue the program."

"It is hard to imagine a scenario in which we would not eliminate some programs at MU,” Foster wrote.

Foster attached to his e-mail a list of 75 programs deemed to be low-producing; 63 of them are graduate programs. Several foreign language programs and an array of science degree programs are under review.

The e-mail also included a draft copy of the response form used for the program productivity review. Foster said a preliminary response from deans is required by Oct. 15.

In a telephone interview, Foster said, “(the programs) are not being asked to justify their existence.” But he acknowledged that changes, including potential “realignments and eliminations,” probably would occur.

David Russell, interim commissioner of higher education, said in a letter to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton that chief academic officers at Missouri campuses will have to provide the coordinating board the “proposed actions they will take concerning low performing and duplicate programs” by Oct. 21.

Meanwhile, Russell said that the higher education department will give all institutions a separate analysis and findings today concerning program productivity and duplication statewide.

Between Oct. 21 and Nov. 30, the department will draft a report with recommended action and submit it to the coordinating board on Dec. 2. A final report will be given to Nixon and the board in February.

The list of programs sent to the deans included statistics on the numbers of students graduating from each program over each of the past six years. Russell said in a news release on Friday that programs that fail to meet the board's productivity criteria of producing 10 graduates per year (calculated over a three-year average) at the bachelor's level, five majors per year at the master's level and three majors per year at the doctorate level will be subject to further study.

Foster said evaluating programs using only that statistic would be a “simplistic approach.”

“We look at a wide range of things,” he said. “But we have to have a discussion about this data because there’s a lot of interest around it.”

“It’s important to understand this is just one piece of input regarding whether a program is productive,” Foster added.

Leona Rubin, chairwoman of the MU Faculty Council, said in an e-mail to the council at noon on Monday that the list Foster distributed is a short one.

"Campus has developed a short list of low performing programs based solely on the number of graduates (as mandated by CBHE)," she wrote. "Campus administration recognizes that this is not the only or best predictor of a programs (sic) value. ... There will be a longer list released in a day or two. There are other lists that will not be very well received and you should be aware that the media has all these lists."

Rubin said Deaton will meet with MU faculty to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

Foster said there are a variety of ways that a program can be productive. He cited community involvement, grants received, faculty being published and awards received as important factors.

Kathy Love, spokeswoman for the Department of Higher Education, said it continues to review and discuss the criteria for determining which programs are low-producing or low-performing. It has not set a deadline for finishing that work. She added that the department agreed to accept input from community colleges.

Foster said there hasn’t been a discussion regarding how much MU is aiming to save with potential program cuts and mergers.

“We haven’t got a dollar amount,” he said.

Foster said MU won’t know how much money needs to be cut until the state budget is passed in the spring. This will depend on a variety of factors, he said, including student enrollment, state appropriations and whether there is a tuition increase.

“We have to look at the total budget, the total financial plan,” he said.

Efforts to reach deans and department chairs at MU were largely unsuccessful Monday. Lee Lyman, chair of the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, said faculty in that college plan to meet on Tuesday to talk about the program review. Both the master's and doctoral programs in anthropology are included in the preliminary "low-producing" list distributed by MU.



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Ellis Smith October 4, 2010 | 6:20 p.m.

Actually, 75 seems a bit low.

Assuming that this is how things are going to be, why wasn't this exercise started years ago? Also, shouldn't it be repeated on a regular basis (as a review)?

Must we be backed into a financial corner at this university before we trim and/or consolidate operations?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 5, 2010 | 7:49 a.m.

Here's a cooperative project - involving two campuses - to make a reduction.

Both MU and MS&T have nuclear research reactors.

MU awards MS and PhD (no BS degree) in Nuclear Engineering.

MS&T awards BS, MS, and PhD in Nuclear Engineering; however, their MS and PhD programs have been low-producing.

The MS&T reactor is particularly suited as an undergraduate teaching tool.

So, eliminate the MS and PhD program at MS&T but keep the BS program, since it's the only BS degree program in UM System.

[But aren't I from MS&T? Yes, but maybe it's time we as campuses stopped being so selfish and near-sighted at this so-called "university system."]

BTW MS&T's reactor is celebrating its 50th year of operation, the oldest operating nuclear reactor in Missouri.

(Report Comment)

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