Are you on the list


Curtis Almeter / The Chart

Arthur Johnson, a junior music major seeking a bachelor of arts degree, practices his drumming skills following a band practice on Wednesday. Johnson’s major is on a list of programs not meeting state criteria.

The process of statewide program evaluation has accelerated, and 15 programs at Missouri Southern now face uncertain futures.

AJ Anglin, Southern’s vice president for academic affairs, held a meeting with department heads Wednesday morning and informed them of the programs not meeting state evaluation criteria. The topic was the main draw during a question and answer session with faculty Anglin hosted Wednesday afternoon.

“Trust me, there has been a lot of effort, throughout the whole system, to defend these,” Anglin told faculty of programs across the state that now face significant changes or even elimination.

Anglin and other chief academic officers met in Jefferson City last week to agree upon criteria used in the evaluations. Under the guidelines adopted, programs with fewer than 10 graduates each year on average must be eliminated or schools must justify their continued existence.

Those programs at Southern include everything from mathematics and history to theatre and music.

Dr. Marsi Archer, head of the physical sciences department, said she wasn’t surprised when three of her majors were included on the “low producing” list after she found out programs would be held to a 10-graduate standard.

Now she must decide what to do with biochemistry, environmental health and medical technology majors, all of which averaged eight or fewer graduates over the last three years.

“I do have a plan and I am fighting for them,” Archer said Wednesday.

Music Department head Dr. Jeffrey Macomber said he wasn’t as alarmed as he had been earlier and found reason to be optimistic.

“We have a number of strategies that we are looking at to express the reason to justify our programs,” Macomber said. “We are looking at lots of strategies beyond pure data. Data is good but doesn’t tell the whole story, so what we’re doing is we are trying to tell a more complete story here about these programs.”

Institutions across the state have several options regarding programs deemed of low productivity. If a school decides against phasing a program out it can argue the program is critical to the mission, supports other programs on campus, needs more time for its numbers to improve or an institution can seek to collaborate with another university.

“Obviously one of the easiest options, which I’m not quite sure what they’re hoping, I assume they are, is that you just stop doing that particular major program,” Anglin said last week.

“I don’t think any of us will select to do that, to be honest,” he added. “There would be very few programs statewide that would do that.”

The ongoing program review is the result of a mandate from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon during a higher education retreat in August. During his speech at the event, Nixon said the number of new academic programs created last year was five times the number of programs discontinued.

“While some of these new programs were, no doubt, good additions, the pace of growth – especially in this economy – is simply unsustainable,” Nixon said.

“We must take a hard and unsentimental look at all academic programs, and cull those that are of low productivity, low priority, or duplicative,” he added.

A September 16 letter from Dr. David Russell, the interim commissioner of higher education, to presidents and chancellors, said the purpose of program review was “to ascertain if we have the right mix of programs in the right places …” and also to “identify opportunities for greater collaboration between and among our institutions with the aim of improving accessibility and affordability.”

The timeline, which Russell described in the letter as “admittedly ambitious,” calls for institutions to respond to the department of higher education by Oct. 21 regarding proposed actions they will take with programs. The department will then draft a preliminary report with recommendations that will be delivered to the coordinating board for higher education on Dec. 2. A final report will go to Nixon’s office in February.

Still at issue is the number of programs affected by review. Southern has compiled data based on using a four-digit classifications of instructional programs code, but the state basing evaluations on a six-digit code has not been ruled out. Using a six-digit evaluation, Southern would face difficult decisions with 38 programs, instead of just 15.

“The more numbers you put on the code the more you fine tune it,” Anglin said Thursday.

Using the school of business as an example, Anglin said the four-digit code analysis would just require Southern have at least 10 business graduates in a given year, but a six-digit code analysis would require business finance, business management and others meet the 10-graduate criteria.

“If we go to the six digits, our problems in terms of time commitment and issues we have to address are just much, much bigger,” Anglin said.

Anglin said institutions will try and convince Nixon’s office to base evaluations on the four-digit codes.

A data table printed by the Columbia Missourian earlier this week lists 75 “low producing” programs at the University of Missouri – Columbia, 63 of which are graduate programs. That table was compiled using the six-digit code, however.

Numbers from other institutions were not immediately available, and Anglin told faculty on Wednesday that Southern has been more open throughout the process than others.

“We probably have done more, in terms of the other universities, than most, but we did that with a caveat that we are going to assume they will let us continue with the four-digit codes but we did not get that in writing,” he said.

Archer said she was saddened by the whole process.

“Those programs, many of them that are on that list are central to a liberal arts education, central to the economic viability of this region, and central to the cultural life of this region as well,” Archer said. “It saddens me to see that. We’re one of the small schools in the state and yet we’re being held to the same standard as those larger schools as far as the number of graduates.”

Macomber said the review was “understandable” given a fiscal hardship facing the state, and he predicted other states with similar problems would resort to the same measures.

“It becomes necessary to examine different options and that’s all this is, a means to collect data and present data that will hopefully inform those who make these decisions about what some of the better strategies would be moving forward to maintain the integrity of the institutions, to maintain the integrity of the programs and at the same time to do that with less cost over time,” he said.

“I do believe that we have every reason to be optimistic if we use all the tools that are available to us to justify these programs and to make the case and I think we can make very strong cases for many of the programs which are currently under scrutiny,” Macomber added.

Anglin said he wanted to make sure nobody overreacted, overresponded or paniked, adding that the way to deal with the issue is collaboratively, collegially and pragmatically.

“Even though they’re holding our feet to the fire, we’re still in this together,” he said. “Each institution and the board of higher education – we’re not enemies. We have a different assignment that we’ve been given that we don’t have a choice of doing, frankly. It’s being directed out of the Governor’s office.”