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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Report slates 5 MU degree programs for elimination

Two programs will be cut immediately, while three will have a chance to appeal.

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Spencer Pearson/Graphic Designer

Five MU degree programs have been slated for elimination, according to a report from Chancellor Brady Deaton released Monday.

A report documenting MU’s low-producing programs was given to the Missouri Department of Higher Education on Friday. The report cuts two programs immediately, with three more likely to be cut in the near future and 34 others to be reconfigured.

The education specialist degrees offered through the special education program and the Career and Technical Education program, respectively, were the first to be removed from the list of active degree options.

Students pursuing the three degrees projected to be cut will be permitted to finish their programs before they are phased out. The Natural Resources master’s degree, the Communication and Science Disorders doctoral degree and the Environmental Geology baccalaureate degree are affected.

Geological Sciences Department Chairman Kevin Shelton said he was caught off guard by the Environmental Geology baccalaureate degree’s inclusion in the “projected close” category. He said the report did not combine the Geological Sciences and Environment degrees, though it should have.

“I have no idea why the BA degree in the Department of Geological Sciences is listed under the ‘Projected Close, Active Students’ category,” Shelton said. “No administrator at MU has informed me of any reason for the listing. Until told otherwise, I will assume it is a mistake.”

School of Natural Resources Director Mark Ryan said the degree in question in his department was instated in 2008 and required no new courses, faculty or staff.

“It is a small degree program for early to moderate career professionals to upgrade their skills credentials,” Ryan said. “Cutting it will save no money.”

The report grants faculty and students a chance to salvage their programs, showing evidence as to why it should not be cut. If their pleas are unsuccessful and administrators decide the program will remain closed, no more students will be able to pursue the degrees.

According to the report, the remaining 34 programs listed in the report are not meeting state criteria for productivity, though they are still important. Although they will not be cut, they are being reconfigured.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said program cuts such as these are nothing new.

“From a general viewpoint, this review is not something that is only happening now,” Basi said. “We’re constantly reviewing programs, because the programs and the field of discipline are constantly evolving.”

He said the actions being proposed are more a result of savings and actions MU has taken in the recent past, such as hiring freezes and discovering inefficiencies within departments.

“As we’ve progressed in that area, we’ve looked and said, ‘Maybe we need a professor in this area or a faculty member in this area, but maybe we don’t need one in this area because we don’t have a high demand for it,’” Basi said.

A faculty discussion on the report will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 12. The dialogue will give faculty an outlet to discuss the report’s outlines.

The Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education will submit a final report to Gov. Jay Nixon on Feb. 11.

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