Missouri colleges to cut 116 degree programs

More than 100 degree programs will be eliminated at Missouri colleges and universities as part of a cost-savings review ordered by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The state Department of Higher Education issued a report Wednesday outlining the 116 academic programs slated for deletion at two- and four-year schools because few students pursue degrees in those subjects. Many of the programs are graduate level, and the elimination of a degree program doesn’t mean courses will no longer be offered.

The cuts will be phased in to allow students in degree programs faced with elimination to graduate.

The University of Missouri-Columbia, the state’s largest university, tops the list with 19 programs on the chopping block, followed by 11 at the University of Central Missouri and nine at Northwest Missouri State University. Truman State and Harris-Stowe were the only two of the state’s 13 public universities with no program cuts.

Forty-six degree programs at Missouri’s 14 community colleges are no more, led by Metropolitan Community College with 11. Four community colleges were spared cuts.

The state defines “low-producing” programs as those awarding fewer than 10 bachelor’s degrees a year on average. The cutoff is five graduates for master’s programs and three graduates for doctoral programs.

Hundreds more degree programs were reviewed but spared elimination, with 24 programs reclassified as inactive and 175 flagged for another review in three years.

Those ranks include the five-man physics department at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, which graduated one lone student each of the past three years. But the department keeps a heavy teaching load with classes that meet general education requirements, school leaders told the state. The school bolstered its case with letters of support from local businesses.

The statewide review highlighted some disturbing trends, said David Russell, the state’s higher education commissioner.

“Many fields that have been identified as crucial to the state’s economic growth and global competitiveness were among the low-producing degree programs,” he said in a statement. “Foreign languages, teacher education and the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — were prominent on the list of fields with few graduates. This is a concern that must be addressed across K-12 and higher education.”

The report will be further discussed Thursday by the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education, with a final report provided to Nixon by the end of the month.

Nixon thanked the state’s schools for “responding to my call for action.”

This is an important initial step following through on my request for program review, and I am heartened by the institutions working to identify and carry out great efficiencies,“ he said in a statement.

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