Tennessee colleges and universities dealing with $56 million in cuts this year must decide which of their undergraduate programs are expendable.
At Tennessee State University, its governing board has targeted at least 12 programs that are low producing and in danger of termination next year as part of a three-year review cycle.
One of those programs at the historically Black institution is in the Africana Studies department, which had a budget last year of nearly $320,000.
The department’s degree program had only 15 students, the lowest of any undergraduate major program at the school. Four students earned a bachelor’s degree from the program in 2007.
“Instead of trying to serve everyone, we need to develop a more narrow focus on some of our programs,” said TSU Provost Robert Hampton.
The Tennessee Board of Regents has identified a total of 70 such programs.
In 2006, the board cut 18 percent of programs under review and axed nearly 25 percent in 2003, during a budget year similar to this one. Undergraduate degree programs must average at least 10 graduates over five years to avoid the low-producing tag.
Master’s degree programs must average at least five annual graduates; doctorate degree programs need three.
Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed the higher education cuts as part of his plan to deal with sharply declining revenues.
But Timothy Caboni, associate dean at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, said program terminations are becoming increasingly necessary for schools across the country facing long-term budget cuts.
“It’s an opportunity for an institution to closely examine what its activities are, which ones are closest to the core mission to the institution,” Caboni said. “Things that are extra or not necessary, you really have to ask, ‘Why are we doing this?”’
However, he said program cuts typically face strong opposition because they usually entail employee layoffs or reassignments.
For instance, when the University of Tennessee-Knoxville said it would eliminate the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, which serves the school’s Speech and Hearing Center, opposition by patients at the center helped push a vote to October.
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