Western Kentucky University looking to suspend 101 academic programs

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – In an email sent by acting Western Kentucky University Provost Cheryl Stevens to university faculty and staff, the former Ogden College dean announced the recommendations for various programs to be suspended on the Hill.

The recommendations come as part of the school’s Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation – CAPE, as it’s more widely known by, which was conducted solely by faculty at WKU.

“This was a very critical, internal look at what we’re doing as an institution on the academic side,” said WKU Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper.

Following the evaluation, Provost Stevens announced in the email that 101 programs have been recommended for suspension.

“We have also identified 101 programs that have been recommended for suspension—11 undergraduate degrees, four graduate degrees and 86 other credentials such as minors and certificates,” she said in the e-mail. “Of these, 42 currently have no students—one undergraduate, four graduate and 37 other credentials…When we began the process, deans and department heads had to make careful, deliberate and sometimes difficult choices in deciding which programs met the needs of our students and communities and were viable to maintain in our current economic environment. Given a declining population of high school students, downturn in the number of international students, and reduced state allocations, we need to optimize allocation of scarce resources to promote and support growth.”

These recommendations didn’t come as a surprise to faculty.

“We talked about it,” said WKU Dept. of Communication Department Head Helen Sterk. “We had meetings with the Dean. There were no surprises for us. We knew if you were teeny-tiny, you were going to have to make a really good argument about sticking around.”

The recommendations of programs to be cut can be broken down into the follow: 36 programs from Ogden College of Science & Engineering, 26 from Potter College of Arts and Letters, 23 in College of Health and Human Services, 15 from College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and one from Gordon Ford College of Business.

“101 programs affects about 3% of our student population,” added Skipper. “42 of those programs have no students at all in them.”

Many of the other programs have less than 10 students. However, all the students in the programs that have been recommended for suspension will be able to finish out their degree.

“They’re all going to be able to graduate with those programs because there’s a commitment to “teach out” your majors,” Sterk said. “When that last major has graduated, then the program is really shuttered.”

In terms of faculty affected by these possible suspensions, it’s not anticipated that changes will take place in the near future.

“What we will see is a refocus,” said Skipper.

Sterk chimed in on the topic as well.

“If your program is gone, what you may need to do is re-tool slightly, and teach in a slightly different area,” she said.

The changes brought about through CAPE have been done so in hopes of strengthening the university’s current curriculum, and being able to better recruit prospective students to WKU.

“Our students should have confidence that the programs we offer are vibrant, relevant, and important to both us and them,” Stevens added in the e-mail. “A healthy academic portfolio that clearly demonstrates the value and importance of a college education will reaffirm why the WKU student experience is top-quality.”

The recommendations will be voted on for approval at the WKU Board of Regents committee meeting on Friday morning.