Dozens of low-enrollment degree programs in disciplines from French to geography to physics are being placed in moratorium by leaders of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities as they reexamine priorities amid severe funding cuts.
The State System of Higher Education briefed the faculty union Monday in Harrisburg about results of its first-ever system-wide degree review. Programs placed in moratorium on individual campuses will halt admissions but continue to exist at least long enough for existing students and those newly registered for the fall to finish their degrees.
State System officials were not immediately available for comment following the afternoon-long meeting at the headquarters of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. A complete list of the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs affected was not released.
But APSCUF spokesman Kevin Kodish didn't need one to predict the outcome for some faculty. "The potential impact down the road is simple: It'll reduce staffing," he said. "It's the underlying reason for doing the review."
State System leaders, meanwhile, say they intend to encourage more of the system's 117,000 students to enroll in collaborative degree programs that would rely on courses and instructors based on more than one university.
Leaders entered Monday's meeting with plans to develop a number of "shared programs" in foreign languages and in physics. The programs potentially would use software that enables distance learning.
Kenn Marshall, a State System spokesman, could not elaborate on the planned collaborations across the system, but on Monday word about one of them emerged: a bachelor of arts in physics to be offered jointly by Clarion, Edinboro, Mansfield, and California University of Pennsylvania.
Details are being worked out, "but the assumption is faculty members have different areas of expertise, so if someone is an expert in, say, applied physics, that person would bring that strength to the table and teach that," said Angela Burrows, a spokeswoman for California University.
Burrows said the fact that professors could be more than 100 miles away from some of the students they teach would not harm the program. She said the program would continue to attract students because of its quality and tuition rates that are below that of other public or private campuses in the state.
"Their curriculum needs will be met, even if they are not met physically on any given campus," she said.
The program review, stretching back to the fall, focused mainly on undergraduate programs with fewer than 30 graduates over five years, or fewer than 20 over five years for graduate degrees.
It was undertaken amid what some say is the worst financial challenge in the State System's history.
So far, Kutztown, Mansfield, Millersville, and Slippery Rock Universities have announced actual or possible workforce cuts to deal with waning state support amid the recession and with the anticipated loss starting in July 2011 of $38 million in federal stimulus aid.