Stephens plans to cut faculty and degrees

Six programs are to be phased out.
Monday, April 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:33 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

In an attempt to make the school financially stable, Stephens College will not renew contracts for 15 faculty members and will phase out six degree programs, two of which do not now have any students enrolled, over the next two years.

Although degree programs will be cut, many of the courses in those programs will remain, and provided that enrollment is high enough in these classes, some faculty contracts may be extended beyond the 2004-05 school year.

Additionally, incoming freshmen will have five new degree programs to choose from, and this summer marks the first time in nearly a decade that the school will offer summer courses, both on campus and online.

This is the next step in the school’s yearlong strategic planning process — the broader mission is to secure a niche in Columbia and the higher education community. These cuts will allow the school to shave close to $1 million off its $3.5 million annual deficit while building on the school’s historically strong performing arts and preprofessional programs, according to a press release.

As she approaches her official inauguration next weekend, Stephens College President Wendy Libby says the school is focusing its attention on the future. “I think that the move that we’ve made has been to honor the past and secure the future,” Libby said.

No longer available

Majors no longer available to freshmen are: Spanish; political science; international studies; law, philosophy and rhetoric; environmental biology; and environmental communication. The 37 students now enrolled in the programs will be able to graduate within their original time frames and without additional cost.

Although the law, philosophy and rhetoric major will be cut, the program’s pre-law component will be restructured and continue to be offered due to student demand for a pre-law program.

“Personally, it is a shame to see my programs gone, and the professors as well,” said Cat Withrow, a senior majoring in Spanish and international studies. “But as a Stephens student, I see the good it’s going to do Stephens overall and that’s very hopeful.”

How they decided

Decisions about which programs to cut were based on criteria developed by the faculty, including current enrollment, student satisfaction and demand in the market for a program. Since Stephens is a women’s college, another criterion is the demand for a program from female high school students.

“This was a very structured decision,” Libby said. “It was very objective and data-based.”

Stephens’ strategic planning process began last fall and is aimed largely at making the college financially stable. If the school were to continue to operate at its current deficit, the college would have to close within three years.

“We’re trying to find the niche for the institution. ... In golf, they call it the sweet spot,” said Rex Stevens, vice president for academic affairs. “We’re trying to find exactly what we do better than other places, and I think we’re getting close.”

The cuts in degree programs will affect only incoming freshmen. Stephens is working individually with current students to make sure that they can still graduate on time with their chosen degree.

“The essence of what’s going on here is really an extension of what Stephens is about, which is personal attention,” Libby said. “This is student by student in meeting with the dean. So many small schools talk about personal attention — well, here we are living it out.”

New programs

New undergraduate degree programs will include equestrian science, digital filmmaking, theater and fashion communication. New minors will be available in theater, dance and creative writing.

Additionally, a “3-2” equestrian partnership will be offered in which a student can earn an undergraduate degree in equestrian science from Stephens in three years and then continue on at Washington University for a two-year master’s degree in occupational therapy.

These programs build on existing programs and are interdisciplinary within existing departments. No new faculty will need to be hired.

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