40 MU programs could be back on chopping block

MDHE wants further justification for keeping the programs protected from budget cuts.

Editor's note: See "Attached Files" in the sidebar to the right to view a PDF document listing the 75 "low-producing" degree programs facing cuts.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has pulled 40 programs that had seemingly been salvaged back into review.

In October, the department put 75 programs up for discussion, classifying them as “low-producing” degree programs. The programs didn’t produce an adequate amount of graduates, according to the department.

This list was then shortened to about 25 programs. MU assumed the remaining 50 were going to be safe and removed them from the list.

Following MU’s decision to remove these 50 programs from its list of “low-producing” degrees, the department said it needs further justification from Provost Brian Foster as to why 40 of the programs are necessary and should avoid cuts or elimination.

“He needs to do something about each one of them,” Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin said.

Foster sent an e-mail to deans addressing the issue Tuesday.

Even if Foster were to justify the 40 programs, 25 still require further discussion.

“We will NOT have the option of simply not acting on those that are ‘under consideration,’” Foster said in his letter to university deans. “I will have to have a compelling reason, with supporting data, for sustaining or realigning EACH of the 25 programs.”

Rubin said MDHE’s reasoning behind cutting programs is very narrow. She said the department measures a program’s success based on how many students it graduates, not taking into account the program’s cost or national-recognition.

“We think that those are not good metrics for whether or not a program should exist,” Rubin said. “But nevertheless, they are the only ones that they are giving us. They will not allow us to address quality, only quantity.”

Although Foster said he has persistently said the situation presents an opportunity to better MU, Foster must submit the final report to the state by mid-December. He said he hasn’t heard back from several of the departments, and if he doesn’t hear soon, he will have to respond to the state without their input.

“We have said many times that the number of degrees awarded by a program is not an adequate measure of program productivity,” Foster said. “That said, it is important to add that we began this discussion with the idea that we would use this exercise in a productive way — as an opportunity to seed longer-term discussions on configuring programs in a way that better positions MU competitively. I still see that longer-term discussion as the most important outcome.”

Rubin said she thinks its important to have these kinds of discussions in this situation.

“I think at this point, the people involved in those programs know who they are,” Rubin said. “I thought this for a long time, actually — I think that the best way to approach it is for the faculty and their deans and chairs to work together.”

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