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WIU Eliminates Academic Programs to Cut Costs

WIU's Sherman Hall
TSPR's Rich Egger
WIU's Sherman Hall

The university said more than two-dozen academic programs will be eliminated. There are a few pre-professional majors and graduate certificates on the list but the majority are minors. Another 17 programs were given a year's notice to show improved enrollment numbers and increased value or face elimination.

The radio story

All of the programs [.pdf] up for review or elimination have fewer than 20 students enrolled. Those students will be given time to finish their studies.  WIU Provost Dr. Ken Hawkinson said several of the programs don’t have any students registered this year.

“Many of the programs that made this list are programs that have been in decline,” Hawkinson said. “It’s not a one year drop because a couple faculty are on sabbatical and fewer courses are offered or something of that nature. This is a decline that has happened over time or it has been consistently been low enrolled.”

Several of the minors up for elimination require the same classes as the major in that subject.  Hawkinson said in those instances no extra resources are being diverted.

“I think it’s actually detrimental to the program to have a minor even if it’s the same courses with only one, two, or three students. My recommendation to the program would be to pull that minor back and refashion it so it actually draws enrollment,” Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson said he’s unsure how much money the plan will save the university because most of the savings will come through attrition as faculty decide to retire. But he said all affected faculty can opt to be retrained or move to other departments.

University reviews of programs are typically done once every eight years. Hawkinson said the current fiscal situation required the review be moved up. He said this is the largest number of programs recommended for elimination in the university's recent history.

“It is necessary that we direct our resources to programs that have sufficient numbers of students to justify the offering of courses in those programs,” Hawkinson said.

The plan also requires the reorganizing of a few departments including the merger of the Broadcasting and Journalism departments and the consolidation of the Film Program in the Department of English. In addition, the Instructional Design and Technology program will be moved online.

Hawkinson said he feels the overall changes in academic program offerings align with Western’s core values.

“Comprehensive universities by nature cast a wide net. We are not a specialty school. We are here to serve a vast audience that have many, many different interests and there are some things that make us unique and those are what we call our signature programs. But, we would not have a program on our books if it was not a good program, it was not a very important program for our students. That’s one reason why if we do have some of these that are not doing so well, we do want to get them off our books so that we can put our emphasis on the very strong programs,” Hawkinson said.

In addition, Hawkinson wants three academic programs added in areas experiencing growth and higher demand. They include an online MBA option, a weekend academy for those majoring in College Student Personnel, and an Event Planning Management program at the Quad Cities campus.

Copyright 2015 Tri States Public Radio

Emily Boyer is the Morning Edition host for Tri States Public Radio. She can be heard on-air from 6 to 9 weekdays.