As you know, two of the Provost’s university-wide decisions appearing in the Academic Affairs Program Prioritization (A2P2) report focused on reducing the number of courses and academic programs offered at WSU. Specifically, the Provost’s recommendations were as follows:
- Conduct a university-wide course audit with the goal of reducing the number of undergraduate and graduate courses offered across the university. Reductions will vary across programs, but should total approximately 20% university-wide.
- Conduct a university-wide degree audit with the goal of reducing the number of majors, minors, options, and degrees.
By June 15, 2008 each college is to submit to the Provost the initial results of their course and degree audit. Final decisions from the course and degree audits are due in the Provost’s Office September 26, 2008.
This directive is consistent with the direction that CAHNRS units have been asked to move by the college administrative over the past two years. During academic year 2007-08, Dr. Kim Kidwell, Associate Dean of Academic Programs has been carefully monitoring low-enrollment courses and working with faculty and chairs to assess the future of many of these courses. The simple fact is that we are teaching many more courses than we have faculty resources to support or students to enroll.
The official list of courses provided by the Provost for the course audit exercise included 925 separate courses taught within CAHNRS! In addition, a Provost’s preliminary review indicated that X% of our undergraduate courses and Y% of our graduate courses taught over the last five years had fewer than 10 students enrolled. As a result, CAHNRS was one of three colleges given a college-specific directive to “reduce the number of course offerings and low enrollment degrees” in the final A2P report. Clearly, we have work to do!
Potential course eliminations can be generally categorized into three groups:
- courses that are no longer taught or are taught infrequently,
- courses having consistently low enrollment, or
- courses which can be eliminated as a result of curriculum-based changes.
Courses recommended for elimination in the report due to the Provost by June 15 will largely be comprised of those in the first two groups. Those requiring more extensive curriculum changes will likely be added when the final report (due September 26) is provided to the Provost.
Most departments are making great process in conducting their preliminary course audit. This success is largely due to the fact that these units had begun intensive curriculum restructuring several months ago. Everyone’s efforts are much appreciated in meeting these very tight deadlines.
Finally, I wish to underscore that this activity is not a bad thing! By reducing the number of courses, we can potentially move some of our tenure-track faculty into higher demand courses. In addition, we can become more efficient in our course delivery by increasing enrollments in previously under-enrolled courses. Cleaning the roles of infrequently offered courses also provides “truth in advertising” to current and prospective students. Finally, implementation of these course reductions should have a positive affect on our research program. As noted above, for several years, we have been offering many more courses than we have faculty resources to teach. The net result has been that the research mission of the college has been essentially subsidizing the teaching mission. Enhanced research productivity is an important contribution that CAHNRS can deliver to the university in its quest to be more AAU-like.