Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher announced Thursday, that the university will proceed with the phased discontinuation of 10 of the 13 academic programs previously recommended by a campus task force for closure. Belcher also announced that programs in motion picture and television production, Spanish and Spanish education, which had been recommended for discontinuation, will be retained, with program directors responsible for developing action plans to address weaknesses and take steps toward improvement. Programs that will begin the process of phased discontinuation are a bachelor’s degree program in German; master’s degree programs in health and physical education, mathematics, mathematics education, music, music education and two master’s programs related to teaching English to speakers of other languages; and a minor in women’s studies. In addition, a total of eight programs have agreed to voluntarily discontinue operations because of low enrollment or similarity to other programs available at WCU. Those programs are undergraduate minors in American studies, Appalachian studies, broadcast sales, broadcast telecommunications engineering technology, digital communications engineering technology, earth sciences and multimedia; an undergraduate program in business designed as a second major for non-business students; and master’s degree programs in chemistry education and teaching music. Chancellor Belcher had the following to say about the decision; “I have explored quality indicators. I have considered the degree to which programs and their owners – faculty, coordinators, department heads – have been thoughtfully proactive, before the advent of program prioritization, in recruitment and retention efforts, and the degree to which they have been successful,” he said. “I have explored the differences between need in the region and actual demand for Western Carolina’s programs. And I have wrestled with potential impact of program loss.” Those programs slated for discontinuation will not be closed immediately. They will be placed on inactive status and will not enroll any additional students. The university is developing program-specific plans to “teach out” students currently enrolled in those programs, or to help them transition into a similar program at WCU or to another institution, as it follows best practices for the discontinuation of academic programs. “Western Carolina University cannot be all things to all people. It never could, but the economic climate of the last five years and the resulting budget reductions have made this fact, too often ignored, a blatant reality,” Belcher said. “Our university must focus, ensuring that it does not diffuse its efforts and resources, both fiscal and human, in so many directions that the institution jeopardizes the quality of all of its programs.” Decisions to eliminate academic programs are subject to the approval of the University of North Carolina system. Western Carolina also must follow specific guidelines required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, WCU’s official regional accrediting agency. Belcher’s announcement regarding his final decisions does not represent the last chapter in program prioritization at WCU. The university will integrate ongoing program prioritization into its regular cycle of program review, which will draw upon additional recommendations made by the task force related to improvements in the process and the data used for assessment.
Detailed information about program prioritization at WCU, including task force recommendations and final decision reports from the chancellor, can be found online at the website programprioritization.wcu.edu.