UWSP cutting 13 programs, tenure cuts possible by 2020

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By Brandi Makuski

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point outlined on Monday its plan to address fiscal challenges by proposing cuts to some programs, while adding others.

In a press release sent out Monday, the college described it as “shifting resources to invest in areas with growth potential”.

UWSP faces a deficit of $4.5 million over two years, due largely to declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues. It proposes adding or expanding 16 programs in areas it considers as “high-demand career paths” as a way to maintain and increase enrollment.

To fund the investment, resources would be shifted from programs with lower enrollment, primarily in the traditional humanities and social sciences. Although some majors are proposed to be eliminated, courses would continue to be taught in these fields, and minors or certificates will be offered.

“This repositioning is necessary because of declining financial resources, demographic changes with fewer students in K-12 schools and rising competition among public and private universities,” said Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “A significant increase in graduation rates recently has also contributed to overall enrollment declines.”

A broad, liberal arts education continues to be critical, Chancellor Bernie Patterson said in messages to students, faculty and staff on March 5.

“Importantly, we remain committed to ensuring every student who graduates from UW-Stevens Point is thoroughly grounded in the liberal arts, as well as prepared for a successful career path,” Patterson’s message read in part. “It is critical our students learn to communicate well, solve problems, think critically and creatively, be analytical and innovative, and work well in teams. This is the value of earning a bachelor’s degree.”

Some of the academic programs proposed for expansion include: Chemical Engineering; Computer Information Systems; Conservation Law Enforcement; Finance; Fire Science; Graphic Design;  Management; and Marketing.

New bachelor’s, or advanced, degree programs are proposed in: Aquaculture/Aquaponics; Captive Wildlife; Ecosystem Design and Remediation; Environmental Engineering; Geographic Information Science; Master of Business Administration; Master of Natural Resources; and Doctor of Physical Therapy,

Discontinuing the following programs is recommended: American Studies; Art (Graphic Design will continue as a distinct major); English (English for teacher certification will continue);  French; Geography;  Geoscience; German; History (Social Science for teacher certification will continue);  Music Literature; Philosophy; Political Science; Sociology (Social Work major will continue); and Spanish.

Students enrolled in any major that is eventually discontinued will have the opportunity to complete their degrees, the release said, to include students who enroll in fall 2018.

Before the changes can be implemented, it first needs to undergo an extensive review by a campus governance committee, the chancellor and UW System Board of Regents. That review is expected to begin in August.

The changes may also result in the layoff some tenured faculty members, with cuts occurring no sooner than June 2020.

Summers said the changes would result in “fiscal stability” for the university.

“If we accept the need for change, and we confront and solve the financial issues currently facing the institution, we can create a new identity for the regional public university,” he said.