Amid statewide budget cuts for the next two years, Eastern Kentucky University is deciding which academic majors and minors should be cut and which need more support.
French, journalism, theater, horticulture and geography are recommended for suspension in a preliminary report by the Academic Budget Review Subcommittee of majors and minors that have had fewer students in recent years.
EKU officials caution that the recommendation doesn’t mean that those programs will go on the chopping block.
“These will be reviewed, and it will be determined if they need more support,” EKU spokewoman Kristi Middleton said. Anyone in the listed majors will be able to graduate with them, and many of these subjects will continue to be taught, Middleton said.
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The final recommendations will go to the faculty senate next month, and they won’t be in front of the Board of Regents until December.
The report consists of 21 majors recommended for suspension, with 17 on a “probationary” list and seven on a “watch” list. Those classifications were based on the startling statistic that between 2012 and 2015, 30 percent of undergraduate degrees had fewer than 10 graduates a year.
For example, the major and minor in French and French teaching are on the suspension list. The reasons given are that between 2008 and 2016, there have been an average of four French majors, 1 French teaching minor and three French minors. The report says that if the program is suspended, EKU would retain French 101 and 102 and would consider a bachelor degree in world languages.
On the other hand, physics made the probationary list, with an average of just seven majors in eight years. But, “as a STEM discipline, the program should be supported,” several classes are need for other majors and there is room for growth with the new science building on campus, the report said.
“Essentially, we allowed the data to tell us what needs to be reviewed based on what our students are choosing or not choosing,” said Richard Day, a faculty member who serves on the subcommittee. “The difficulty is understanding what that means.”
Day said he has heard the most protests about three majors on the list: journalism, geography and theater. For journalism, he said, “the challenge is to make it less of a traditional print media major and more of a 21st-century digital major.” Geography exists in the shadow of the University of Kentucky’s nationally ranked department.
As for theater, “there aren’t a lot of majors, but no one can imagine a campus without performance opportunities for students,” Day said. “The question is, how can we keep the arts vital while the major needs to change?”
Two programs made the “viable” list: American Sign Language and English interpretation and paramedicine, both of which are growing.
State universities will face a cut of 4.5 percent over the next two years. At EKU, that’s a reduction of $11 million.
Budget committees and the faculty senate will wrangle over the recommended scenarios through the fall. The final recommendation will go to President Michael Benson in late November. He will then notify any faculty who are dismissed and take the final list to the board of regents for approval.