A little over a year after proposing to eliminate 13 academic majors, UW-Stevens Point announced that no programs will be discontinued.
Chancellor Bernie Patterson told the university community Wednesday morning that enough people had resigned or retired to address the university’s short-term financial challenges, which have been crimped by six consecutive years of an in-state, undergraduate tuition freeze and a decline in student enrollment.
Last spring, Patterson proposed cutting 13 majors, including history, English and political science in response to an $8 million projected deficit from fiscal years 2020 through 2022. The plan was also part of a larger push embraced by Republicans to emphasize what the university described as “high-demand career paths” in science, engineering and technology fields.
The plan drew swift opposition from some faculty, students and alumni at the university, who said it was unsupported by data, crafted without campus-wide input and counters the very idea of an liberal arts education.
More than half of the university’s roughly 300 faculty members attended an all-faculty meeting in early February to approve a statement expressing dissatisfaction with administrative leadership.
Three-fourths of the $8 million deficit has been largely addressed through the retirements and resignations. In fiscal year 2020, the university will reduce its full-time employee base by about 44 positions. UW-Stevens Point continues to work on the remaining $2 million reduction that needs to be realized by fiscal year 2022, according to the university’s budget office.
Patterson debuted in the fall a scaled-back version of his plan, which targeted a half-dozen programs as opposed to 13.
The six programs — and the tenured faculty teaching in those programs — will remain in place, officials said, though some programs may be reworked.
For example, the university will retain its history major, but restructure the social science teaching curriculum in partnership with the School of Education. Faculty are also revising the non-teaching history major. The department may develop a student internship with the Central Wisconsin Historical Society, department chairman Lee Willis said.
UW-Stevens Point officials will combine the geography and geoscience majors, two others that were on the chopping block, to create a new geospatial science program focused on preparing graduates for careers that apply geospatial technologies to address social and environmental issues.
The university also announced the creation of finance, marketing and management degrees in the School of Business and Economics, a master’s degree in natural resources and a doctoral degree in physical therapy.
“Our new direction has been crafted by many voices,” Patterson said in a university announcement. “We have all listened and learned. I am grateful for the dialogue and look forward to collectively implementing these bold changes on behalf of our students and our community.”