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Degrees may be axed

By Jenny Rose
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday August 26, 2002

Regents set to eliminate five bachelors, masters and doctorate degree programs that turn out small graduating classes

Five degree programs will be cut from UA's course offerings and three other programs will be merged with different programs over the next four years, if the Arizona Board of Regents ratify Provost George Davis' proposal at their next meeting.

Under the plan, the bachelor of science in atmospheric sciences, doctorate in educational leadership, master of science in exercise and sports science, master of science and doctorate in range management and master of science in water resources administration would be eliminated due to low graduation rates.

If the proposal is ratified, students currently enrolled in the programs would be allowed to graduate, but the degrees would not be offered to future students.

When graduation rates fall below eight baccalaureate degrees per year, three master's degrees per year or two doctorates per year in a respective program as they have in this case regents begin considering the program as a candidate for elimination or for a merger with another program.

Also under Davis' proposal, a bachelor of science in soil and water science would be merged with the bachelor of science in environmental science degree, and the nuclear engineering master's and doctorate program would also be merged with the master of science and doctorate in mechanical engineering.

Soil and water science graduated 11 students in its undergraduate program between the 1997-1998 academic year and 2000-2001. The nuclear engineering program awarded one master's degree and three doctorates during the same time period.

The regents were scheduled to vote on whether to eliminate the programs at the August meeting, but instead expressed concern that the current methodology allows too many programs to escape termination.

The university "didn't go deep enough" in considering programs for cuts, Davis said.

Davis said the outcry was provoked mainly because Milton Glick, executive vice president and provost of Arizona State University, told the regents none of their university's programs were eligible to be cut.

The regents look to the review of degree programs as a way to tighten spending in the UA budget during what looks to be another lean year.

The state of Arizona has nearly a billion dollar deficit going into this fall. UA lost $20.3 million or 5.9 percent from the budget between cuts in state funding and pay raise reductions last year that have not been restored this year.

Despite financial pressure, however, some programs that award a low number of degrees continue under a few exceptions the regents make.

Programs can be exempt from elimination if they're new and haven't had the time to generate sufficient enrollment, or if they're offered by a majority of the university's peer institutions.

Degrees that share a majority of the coursework with other programs are also exempt, because eliminating them would not cut down on costly classes and instruction.

Master's programs that have a doctorate with strong graduation rates cannot be eliminated for the same reason cutting the master's program would not be effective because most of the classes would have to be retained for the doctorate program.

Programs that combine degree types, such as a baccalaureate of science and baccalaureate of arts in the same major, are also exempt for similar reasons.

Michael Crow, ASU's new president, said the current system doesn't take into account the quality of the degree program, allowing sub-par programs to remain in the university system if their graduation rates are high enough.

Crow said he would like to see a degree review process that allows university officials to eliminate programs with high graduation rates if their quality is poor.

However, he also noted that the review process needs a greater justification for keeping low-producing degree programs in the university system.

Regent Chris Palacios said Crow's comments spurred the board of regents to consider the methodology of the academic review at its next meeting in September.

The regents are scheduled to decide the fate of the degree programs at a Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 meeting at ASU in Tempe.

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