UWSP proposes to cut 13 programs with low enrollment while expanding others

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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- Enrollment is dropping at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, leading to a $4.5 million deficit. Monday, university leaders released a plan to cut some programs, while expanding others to try to make up that gap.

Greg Summers is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs for UWSP. He said the plan focus on which program have low enrollment and what program are drawing students to the university.

"In the case of the majors, we are proposing for discontinuation, those enrollment numbers have been trending downward and it's not just something we're seeing locally here at Stevens Point, these are national trends, Summers explained.

Programs like chemical engineering, graphic design, management and marketing would all be expanded under UWSP's proposed class changes.

If this proposal goes through, majors in history, art, sociology and many foreign languages would be cut. But classes in those subjects would still remain available.

Interim Dean of College of Letters and Sciences Eric Yonke the changes signal a curriculum overhaul.

"Really, what this is about today is a really large curriculum proposal. How our curriculum can move forward in the 21st century to meet career needs to meet economic needs of the area, the region's needs,” Yonke explained.

Long term-the school is steering students toward majors where jobs are available right after graduation and faculty toward programs with growing career fields. But these changes aren't without growing pains.

"This may end up with the layoff of tenured faculty members. It will probably result in the layoff of untenured faculty members in these programs,” Summers said.

Those layoffs would be in part due to decreasing enrollment, but also the current six-year tuition freeze the state has put on the UW System.

“That certainly restrained our revenue stream in ways we're having to deal with,” explained Summers.

The campus won't be seeing any official changes until June of 2020.

The university states students enrolled in any major that is eventually discontinued will have the opportunity to complete their degrees. This includes students who enroll in fall 2018. Courses would continue to be taught in these fields. Minors in English, Art, History and Philosophy are among those continuing.

Representative Katrina Shankland who represents the 71st Assembly District says she's frustrated with the potential cuts and that this is what happens when the state doesn't prioritize higher education.

In the past 8 years we have seen repeated budget cuts as well as unfunded tuition freezes which really result in reduced course offerings and the inability for students to graduate on time," Shankland said.

Shankland says she's currently planning a round-table discussion on campus to discuss current school funding and what can be done to change the potential cuts that could start as early as 2020.