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University Nears Completion of Targeted Reviews

As it becomes more and more likely that the University will see decreased state appropriations this year, as it has in years past, the University has set out to reduce costs. As part of Priorities of Excellence: the Penn State Strategic Plan, the University has begun taking a closer look at all of its academic colleges and campuses, looking to determine underutilized resources, as well as redundancies in the system. Most of this work centers on Strategic Plan Strategy 2.4: Consolidate Academic and Administrative Programs through Targeted Reviews. Strategy 2.4 outlines Targeted Review by stating that “rigorous program review provides a vehicle for elevating the strongest academic programs and most effective administrative units of the University, an opportunity to redirect resources from weaker programs, and a way to reduce redundancies and create greater efficiencies.” To put it simply, the University is looking to reallocate resources in a cheaper, more efficient manner.

The review system centers around 5 principles whose “goals are both cost cutting and increasing educational quality,” according to University spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz.

  1. Unnecessary duplication or specialization are grounds for consolidation.
  2. Programs that serve regional and workforce demands must be viable.
  3. Appropriate facilities and resources are essential for achieving and sustaining excellence.
  4. A critical mass of full-time faculty, staff, and students is essential for excellence.
  5. Resource efficiencies can be achieved through collaboration, consortia, interdisciplinary cooperation, and alternative modes of educational and service delivery.

This review process started about a year ago with the Smeal College of Business and will touch all academic colleges. Smeal’s Dean, James Thomas, went into his initial meeting with the University Park Academic Review Coordinating Committee (UPARCC) with a predetermined plan of how he would cut costs within the College of Business. His initial ideas ended up being very close to the recommendations made by UPARCC and the Core Council. The most notable of the recommendations was the decision to eliminate the economics degree from Smeal, as there is also an economics degree offered by the College of the Liberal Arts. Part of eliminating the economics department will be the elimination of administrative positions and contract-based teachers. Tenured professors will have the option of moving to Liberal Arts to continue teaching there.

Onward State has already covered the demise of the Science, Technology, and Society minor program, and we have been receiving reports that the Integrative Arts program is being shut down as well. I talked with Mrs. Mountz about the InArt program yesterday and she explained that the department was founded as a way of offering General Education Arts courses to non-Arts and Architecture students. Eventually the program was expanded to include offering majors in fields such as photography and graphic design. The Core Council has recommended to the Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture that it close the InArt department and move most of its academic programs into the School of Visual Arts. What this means is that photography and graphic design aren’t going away as majors, they’re just being realigned with a department that is, what the Council believes, a better fit. By moving the academic units to a different School, Arts and Architecture will be able to strengthen the School of Visual Arts by allowing it offer programs that probably should have been there from the start. Mountz also points out that “anyone currently enrolled in a program will have the opportunity to finish [their degree program] in that program.”

Colleges that have already received their final letters of recommendation have until May 1st to submit a response detailing their plans. From there, changes have to be presented to the Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate for approval.

So while some will look at these recommendations and say that this is the first step towards the University’s demise and that Spanier will keep raising tuition until only the children of Russian oligarchs and Arab oil sheiks can attend Penn State, this author doesn’t buy it. In reality Penn State is in a much better position than the rest of the Big Ten, Mountz says, because our appropriations were such a small part of the University’s operating budget to begin with (about 9%, or $360 million of $4 billion), that losing some of it won’t have as major of an impact as at some other schools.

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About the Author

Chase Tralka

Chase Tralka is a Senior majoring in Information Sciences and Technology with a minor in Security and Risk Analysis. He is from Northern New Jersey and is involved in far too many organizations to list here. He enjoys photography, cycling, and listening to obscure free jazz music.

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