More low-producing MU degrees to be eliminated, merged

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 8:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU will reduce its academic inventory by at least seven more low-producing degrees.  

In a letter sent to the Missouri Department of Higher Education Monday, Chancellor Brady Deaton said a minimum of seven programs will be added to five that are already targeted for elimination. The seven degree programs were not identified in the letter.

The programs will be discontinued, merged with other existing degree programs, or combined into new degree programs, he said.

In an initial report sent to the state last week, Deaton originally identified 34 low-producing programs up for reconfiguration in addition to the five programs slated for removal. The reconfigured programs could be combined with other programs or realigned to preserve their content.

In Monday’s updated report, 28 programs remained on the list for potential change.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said Wednesday the university has identified several possible combinations of those 28 programs that would result in seven fewer degrees.

But he emphasized that the list was preliminary and more discussion would occur before final decisions were made.

“The process is still evolving and has a long way to go,” Basi said.

Deaton said the 28 programs merit more intensive review. They have “subject matter and other critical characteristics of importance” that need to be sustained, he said. 

Many of them have historically had small numbers of faculty and students and may have lost “critical mass” due to the hiring freeze implemented two years ago, he said. 

In an interview Monday, MU Provost Brian Foster said the hiring freeze allowed the university to achieve substantial savings. The goal of program reconfiguration wasn’t to produce further savings through cuts, he said, but to find ways to bolster smaller departments.

In his letter Monday, Deaton said some degrees may be combined with programs outside of the “low-producing” list. “These mergers will be based on programs with complementary subject matter, methods, or other commonalities,” he said.

Deaton said MU expects reconfigurations to help expand enrollment.

He also said several programs originally listed as low-producing are no longer part of the discussion. New data shows they produce enough graduates to surpass the state’s criteria for the low-producing threshold.

The following programs have been removed from the original list of programs to be reconfigured:

  • Soil, environmental, and atmospheric Science — doctoral degree
  • Architectural studies — master's degree
  • Microbiology — master's degree
  • Physiology — master's degree
  • Rural sociology — master's and doctoral degrees

Fourteen master’s degrees won’t be touched because they’re part of high producing doctoral programs, Deaton said. Continuing them requires no extra cost.

He said a progress report will be provided to the state by Dec. 31.

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