By KATHLEEN LOFTUS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Budget cuts are triggering the discontinuation of academic programs at public universities across the state.
Areas of study are being eliminated, causing students to switch majors or even campuses.
Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said programs are dropped because of a combination of financial pressures, downsized operations and insufficient market demand.
Boulus said the most commonly discontinued programs are in liberal arts. Musical therapy, humanities, stage management and Asian language studies are examples of dropped programs.
Meanwhile, engineering and health fields are experiencing more demand and, therefore, are where programs are commonly added.
Provost Max Seel of Michigan Technological University said, “We first shelve programs for five years, then make a decision to discontinue or not.”
“Examples of programs we are currently considering to shelve are a BA in theatre and entertainment technology and a BS in industrial technology because there are no students currently enrolled.”
“For last academic year, the change of about 160 courses represents approximately 6.5 percent of the total course offering,” Seel said.
The last programs Michigan Tech shelved were a wood science minor in 2000 and a minor in speech in 2004.
Michigan Tech added a graduate certificate in sustainable water resources and a graduate certificate in hybrid electric drive vehicle engineering, as well as Ph.D. programs in environmental and energy policy and geophysics, Seel said.
Paul Duby, associate vice president for institutional research at Northern Michigan University (NMU), said programs have undergone a major reorganization by faculty experts in the past year or two to gear classes toward where professional fields are headed.
Duby said lots of small programs tended to mesh together in the clinical laboratory sciences area.
NMU dropped some two-year and four-year programs including plastic injection technology, manufacturing technology, and human and physical geography.
Radiography and respiratory therapy were added in the last two years, and pre-surgical technology was revamped because students are working with local surgeons.
As resources get tighter, experts are focusing on educating students for exactly what will get them jobs.
They added mechanical engineering technology and electronic engineering technology, and Duby said the Biology Department is currently under review.
Boulus said every Michigan public university has different student needs, so discontinued and added programs vary throughout the state.
“An interesting one is teacher education. We had 30 percent fewer graduates in teacher education in the last five years, showing a sign of the times with fewer available jobs.”
Boulus said many teachers will retire in the next five years, so there’s no way institutions will discontinue education programs, but some may downsize them.
“There are roughly 25 to 50 programs dropped and maybe an equal number added, depending on the year,” Boulus said.
Programs are generally phased out, rather than summarily ending, warning students they have a fixed amount of time to complete the program, Boulus said.
He also noted that before eliminating a program, a university can downsize large ones as long as it doesn’t compromise on quality.
Each institution decides whether to downsize a program before the Presidents Council becomes involved.
Annual reviews and restructuring of programs are necessary so students learn what they need to be successful, he said.
Boulus said it’s a long process because of pressure from all sides. University officials considered the impact on faculty, students, alumni and employers of graduates.
Boulus said engineering colleges are rethinking what and how they teach, including battery power, auto manufacturing and fuel cells.
Also, some institutions used to offer entrepreneurship classes, but now it’s a major or minor at schools.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.