School psychology, economics, theater and religion are among the programs — along with their faculty — that could be cut at Eastern Kentucky University as officials close a $25 million shortfall.
Also on the chopping block are a host of classes and degrees, including associate degrees in nursing, minors in theater arts and design, and a bachelor's degree in risk management and insurance, according to documents obtained by the Herald-Leader.
For example, the entire graduate degree program to train school psychologists would be axed, along with undergraduate majors and minors in economics and minors in religion, according to the agenda of the Council on Academic Affairs, which has been contemplating the cuts for several months and will vote on them Thursday.
Jefferson County school psychologist Dianne Herrick got her graduate degree from EKU in 1998. She finds it ironic that EKU would consider cutting the program at a moment schools are calling for more mental health professionals.
“Cutting this program would do major harm to students, especially in the eastern part of the state,” Herrick said. “Many of them are under-served already, many have less support in the rural areas, they are dependent on schools to be their hub of mental health support.”
The list of proposed cuts includes numerous education classes in subjects like teaching P.E., consumer sciences, math and business education. EKU educates numerous teachers for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The Faculty Senate will consider the measures on April 2, and the Board of Regents will vote on them April 6.
Affected faculty and students were notified last week, said Sara Zeigler, Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.
“All of the programs are high-quality programs, adding intellectual richness and value to our academic community and I regret that we find ourselves in the position of considering their suspension,” Zeigler said in a college-wide email. “Decisions were based on considerations of long-term enrollment/graduation trends, costs, and the simple fact that a reduction of $25 million leaves few good options, after doing what was possible with vacant positions. The gubernatorial and legislative choices about higher education funding have had consequences.”
Zeigler was not immediately available for comment.
Council members have considered numerous criteria for their proposals. For example, the associate degree in nursing has a student attrition problem and faces competition from 37 other such degrees at community colleges around Kentucky. The bachelor's degree in nursing would remain.
The agenda documents did not show a similar justification for cutting majors and minors in economics, beyond budgetary savings. Although students could no longer major or minor in economics, some general education classes in the topic would likely still be taught.
EKU underwent a similar round of budget cutbacks in 2016, when it axed majors in French and comparative humanities to help close a then-$13 million shortfall, but those cuts made up only about $600,000.
Now after two more years of state budget cuts and increased pension costs on tap, the deficit has ballooned to $25 million. Despite new dorms and student amenities, enrollment has also fallen, cutting between $4 million and $6 million from the budget. EKU officials decided not to raise tuition this year.
Other cost-cutting measures this time around will include cutting athletics by 20 percent, closing the regional Danville campus and losing top administrative positions, according to President Michael Benson. In all, 200 positions could be eliminated.
According to a report from the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors, EKU subsidized its athletics program with $12.8 million in General Fund money in 2016.
All of the state’s public universities could face a 6.25 percent budget cut in the next two years under a state budget lawmakers are finalizing this week, and the regional schools will have increased pension obligations because of Kentucky’s underfunded system.
Western Kentucky University has already announced the elimination of 140 positions, and Morehead State University is considering voluntary buyouts for faculty.
According to an agenda for the March 29 Council on Academic Affairs meeting, the following programs are recommended for suspension:
▪ B.S. Risk Management and Insurance
▪ B.S. Business and Marketing Education Teaching
▪ B.A. Deaf Studies
▪ M.A. American Sign Language Studies
▪ Associate degree in Nursing
▪ Concentration in Nursing Administration
▪ B.S. Physical Education P-12 Teaching PE and Health
▪ B.S. Family and Consumer Science Education Teaching
▪ Bachelor's in Fine Arts in Art/Design Studio Sculpture
▪ Certificate in Theater Performance
▪ Certificate in Theater Design and Technology
▪ Minor in Theater Arts
▪ Minor in Theater Arts Teaching
▪ B.A. in Economics
▪ Minor in Economics
▪ Minor in Religion
▪ Graduate degree in School Psychology
▪ B.A. in Chemistry
▪ B.S. in Mathematics Teaching
▪ M.S. in Mathematical Science