When is a Program Cut Not a Cut?

When it’s in the UNC system.

Recently, the UNC systemdumped 46 degree programs that were underperforming in terms of enrollment. Specifically, the criteria for closing a program is as follows (thanks to Jesse Saffron):

A bachelor’s program is considered to be “low productive” if 1) it has awarded fewer than twenty degrees in the previous two years; 2) upper division (juniors and seniors) enrollment is less than twenty-six students; and 3) fewer than eleven degrees have been conferred in the most recent year. For master’s and doctoral programs, those numbers change, but the focus is still on degrees awarded and enrollment.

That’s all well and good—the UNC system should be constantly assessing programs and eliminating most of the ones for which there is little demand. (It may behoove the system to keep a few smaller programs so that an important knowledge doesn’t disappear from the state, but only a very few.) There are some good non-monetary reasons for doing so. For instance, such small programs are unable to offer enough classes each semester to enable students to graduate on time. And bigger programs attract better faculty talent.

But there is a serious problem in the UNC system: it has not historically taken advantage of program cuts to reduce staff and expenditures. No budget cuts to the school occur. Faculty members whose jobs have disappeared are “redeployed” and the money gets “reallocated” elsewhere in the system.

If so, what is the point of making cuts in the first place?

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