PSU makes recommendations on future of programs

Special to the Morning Sun / news@morningsun.net

Note: Because an earlier version of this article, which was originally published on Pittsburg State University’s “University News” web page, “led to many questions and concerns,” according to the university, at PSU’s request we have updated it with a newer version “that better explains the situation and gives a more complete look at the changes.” The original version of the article continues below the updated version.

University makes recommendations on future of programs

Pittsburg State University Provost Howard Smith’s message to a subcommittee of the Kansas Board of Regents this week: the university will continue to make a concerted effort to evaluate efficiencies in academic programs to be fiscally responsible while meeting student needs and workforce demands.

Smith’s presentation was in response to a statewide look by KBOR at enrollment numbers, expenses, and revenue — in other words, a return on investment. 

“We have been evaluating low enrollment programs and discussing efficiencies for some time at Pitt State, and we want to be good stewards of funding,” Smith said. “The university has discontinued 52 programs since 2009. That includes majors, minors, emphases, and certificates. But it’s important that as we continue to do that, we look at not just numbers, but also at context.”

Discontinuations 

Of the 25 majors/emphases/degrees at PSU that have been identified as having a low enrollment and a small number of annual graduates, the following were on the list to discontinue, be transitioned into something else, or have already been phased out: 

Graphic Design: While the existing majors and emphases in the Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies are thriving and will continue, this piece was phased out about 10 years ago at the request of KBOR based on the federal Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code. It was revised based on internal program review feedback and the department’s alignment with industry needs.

Clinical Science/Medical Lab Tech: This stand-alone major will transition to an emphasis within the Biology content area.

Spanish Language and Literature: This major was discontinued as a stand-alone degree when the Modern Languages degree was formed a few years ago and all of the foreign languages merged into one with four emphases. So, a student now will major in Modern Languages with an emphasis in Spanish Language and Literature.

Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mathematics and History: These two degrees have been eliminated, but students still can earn Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics and History.

Teacher Education in French, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Family and Consumer Sciences, Mathematics, and Communication (Speech and Theater): These stand-alone majors will each become an emphasis within their related content areas. Example: Rather than majoring in math education, a student will major in math and choose education as an emphasis.

Teacher Education in Psychology: The teacher preparation emphasis was discontinued by the Department of Psychology in 2014.

Continuations 

The university is requesting the following programs be allowed to continue because they support other academic programs through general education courses: Business Economics, Modern Languages, Geography, Music Performance, Physics, Political Science, Sociology, and Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics and History.

The university is recommending continuing the Interior Design program because it is considered new under KBOR guidelines. It was moved from the Family & Consumer Sciences Department to the School of Construction in 2016; prior to that, it had fewer than 15 majors. Upon its move, enrollment climbed to 31 and has climbed to 46 this spring. Enrollment for fall is projected to be 50 students, Smith said.

The university recommended continuing to monitor the International Business program before eliminating it because of extenuating circumstances: it was a program largely pursued by international students, who in recent years have faced challenges in getting here, including the now year-long pandemic. Administrators in that program will consider how to market it to domestic students, Smith said.

The university also recommended continuing two interdisciplinary programs, Integrated Studies and Polymer Chemistry, because although they have few students, they reflect an institutional attempt to maximize resources among departments and they bring in dollars through grant awards.

The board was blunt about PSU’s ledger in some instances. That’s why it’s important, Smith said, to weigh decisions with a level of context and understanding.

“Our Bachelor’s in Music Performance currently doesn’t generate enough credit hours to cover expenditures, which is of concern to at least one board member,” Smith said. “But we feel like it’s strategic to our mission, it provides a significant contribution to our community, and serves our mission in providing a transformational experience for our students. We will look at ways to make it more efficient.”

“We're going to look at costs associated with all programs and continue to assess if there is any way for them to be more efficient,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to eventually cut some things that provide a benefit, but we have to look out for the whole institution."

What’s next 

The recommendations presented by Smith on behalf of PSU will go to the full Kansas Board of Regents in March, at which time they can reject, modify, or accept it.

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Original Feb. 19, 2021 article continues below:

Pittsburg State University Provost Howard Smith’s message to a subcommittee of the Kansas Board of Regents this week: the university will continue to make a concerted effort to evaluate efficiencies in academic programs to be fiscally responsible while meeting student needs and workforce demands.

Smith’s presentation, which addressed recommendations to continue and discontinue specific academic programs at PSU, was in response to a statewide look by the governing body at enrollment numbers, expenses, and revenue — in other words, a return on investment. 

“We have been evaluating low enrollment programs and discussing efficiencies for some time at Pitt State, and we want to be good stewards of funding,” Smith said. “The university has discontinued 52 programs since 2009. That includes majors, minors, emphases, and certificates. But it’s important that as we continue to do that, we look at not just numbers, but also at context.”

Discontinuations 

Of the 25 programs at PSU that have been identified in the past year as having a low enrollment and a small number of annual graduates, the following are on the list to discontinue: Graphic Design; Clinical Science/Medical Lab Tech; Spanish Language and Literature; Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mathematics and History; and Teacher Education in French Language, Psychology, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Family and Consumer Sciences/Home Economics, Mathematics, and Communication.

Phasing out has begun — and in some instances has been completed — but students progressing toward a degree in them will be allowed to finish their degrees.

Continuations 

The university is requesting the following courses be allowed to continue because they support other academic programs through required course work: Economics, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Geography, Music Performance, Physics, Political Science & Government, Sociology, and Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics and History.

The university is recommending continuing the Interior Design program because it is considered new under KBOR guidelines. It was moved from the Family & Consumer Sciences Department to the School of Construction in 2016; prior to that, it had fewer than 15 majors. Upon its move, enrollment climbed to 31 and has climbed to 46 this spring. Enrollment for fall is projected to be 50 students, Smith said.

The university recommended continuing to monitor the International Business program before eliminating it because of extenuating circumstances: it was a program largely pursued by international students, who in recent years have faced challenges in getting here, including the now year-long pandemic. Administrators in that program will consider how to market it to domestic students before cutting it, Smith said.

The university also recommended continuing two interdisciplinary programs, Integrated Studies and Polymer Chemistry, because although they have few students, they reflect an institutional attempt to maximize resources among departments and they bring in dollars through grant awards.

The board was blunt about PSU’s ledger in some instances. That’s why it’s important, Smith said, to weigh decisions with a level of context and understanding.

“Our Music Performance program currently doesn’t generate enough credit hours to cover expenditures, which is of concern to at least one board member,” Smith said. “But we feel like it’s strategic to our mission, it provides a significant contribution to our community, and serves our mission in providing a transformational experience for our students. We will look at ways to make it more efficient.”

“We're going to look at costs associated with all programs and continue to assess if there is any way for them to be more efficient,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to eventually cut some things that provide a benefit, but we have to look out for the whole institution."

What’s next 

The recommendations presented by Smith on behalf of PSU will go to the full Kansas Board of Regents in March, at which time they can reject, modify, or accept it.