Northwestern State University submitted a proposal to the University of Louisiana System this week requesting approval for extensive academic reorganization to help curtail operating costs in the wake of substantial reductions in state funding.



Northwestern State University submitted a proposal to the University of Louisiana System this week requesting approval for extensive academic reorganization to help curtail operating costs in the wake of substantial reductions in state funding.
 
The full Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System will meet Friday to consider the plan.
 
Under the proposal presented by NSU president Dr. Randall J. Webb, Northwestern would eliminate 8 bachelor’s degree programs, 1 master’s degree offering, 12 academic minors and 5 concentrations in baccalaureate degree programs.
 
The Northwestern president said students will be able to continue studies in many of the academic areas in which specific degree programs are being eliminated because of the consolidation of those programs with other academic offerings.
 
Webb said students enrolled in programs affected by the elimination of degrees will be assisted in completing those degrees, selecting a related major or transferring to another university.  “We will closely monitor the students in these programs to ensure a smooth transition or completion of degrees,” Webb stated.
 
The proposal for academic reorganization comes after a comprehensive review of academic programs that began in July of 2009 and continued through March of 2010, Webb said.  The university’s Program Review Committee was comprised of representatives from each academic college and the NSU Faculty Senate.
 
All academic programs were reviewed in the process that involved faculty and staff from all levels, the Northwestern president stated, and a campus forum was held in the spring semester to inform students about the program review.

Webb said proposals to eliminate or consolidate programs were based on “costs, efficiency, completion rates, semester credit hour production, ties to the University Core Curriculum, enrollment and other pertinent factors.”  He added that annual reviews of remaining academic programs “will be conducted to evaluate retention, student success, recruitment and the overall effectiveness of the programs.”

Academic reorganization was necessary, Webb said, because of $9.7 million in state budget cuts over the past 18 months and projections of additional reductions in state funding of up to $10 million during the next year.  State allocations to the university have been cut by 19.5 percent since July of 2008.
 
Northwestern has eliminated 160 positions through layoffs and abolishing vacant positions since the 2007-08 fiscal year, reducing the size of the faculty and staff from more than 960 positions to just over 800.
 
The academic realignment plan submitted to the board this week will result in the elimination of an additional 21 positions by the end of the new fiscal year beginning July 1.  The positions of three academic deans, four department heads or directors and three program coordinators will be abolished.
 
Webb said program elimination and other aspects of academic reorganization will result in cost savings of approximately $2.5 million.  The 160 positions that were previously abolished “reduced personnel costs by some $5 million,” Webb stated.
 
In addition to reducing the number of faculty and staff positions to offset dramatic budget cuts, the university has curtailed funding for adjunct instruction, athletics, student employment, graduate assistantships and departmental budgets for travel, supplies and operating services.
 
The Northwestern president expressed “deep concern and compassion for the faculty and staff members whose lives are being negatively affected by these unprecedented budget cuts and for students who could feel the impact of academic reorganization and other funding reductions.”
 
Webb added, “Every effort is being made to maintain essential programs and services for students, to assist faculty and staff affected by budget cuts and to ensure the continuing strength and stability of this 125-year-old university.”
 
He said the academic realignment “still leaves students a vast array of offerings through redesigned academic areas and strong interdisciplinary programs to pursue career opportunities directly related to fields in which majors or degrees are proposed for elimination.”
 
Degree programs that would be eliminated under NSU’s proposed reorganization are the master’s degree in heritage resources and bachelor’s degrees in physics, physics education, chemistry, chemistry education, heritage resources, journalism, sociology and political science.
 
Existing minors to be eliminated include aviation science, geology, physics, chemistry, journalism, sociology, German, French, historic preservation, philosophy, political science and food and nutrition.  Concentrations in aviation science, recreation administration, fashion merchandising and housing and interiors, economics and German would also be eliminated.
 
Under the proposed academic streamlining plan, the College of Business will become the School of Business under the reorganized College of Science, Technology and Business.  The University College, College of Liberal Arts, Graduate School and Louisiana Scholars’ College will merge to form the College of Arts, Letters, Graduate Studies and Research.
 
In addition, the College of Nursing will be expanded to become the College of Nursing and Allied Health, and the College of Education will become the College of Education and Human Development.
 
A number of academic departments will be consolidated and shifted to appropriate new colleges. Newly created or consolidated departments include Language and Communication; Engineering Technology and Computer Information Systems; Mathematics and Physical Sciences and Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences.
 
The proposal to eliminate academic programs must also be approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents.