U of M – Duluth: Money not deciding factor in coming program cuts

I got a call today from Andrea Schokker, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, who gave me her take on this fall's sweeping evaluation of campus services and academic programs at University of Minnesota - Duluth.

Schokker (UM-D)

She emphasized that the scrutiny on the Duluth campus will be unusually fair:

"A lot of the prioritization efforts on other campuses have been focused just on academic degree programs, and that's a big difference from what we're doing here. Everything -- including the chancellor's office -- is in this."

She acknowledged the financial pressures driving the project. But she said the cost-per-student of programs won't be the main factor administrators use when assessing programs.

The faculty members who drafted the academic evaluation included 10 equally weighted main criteria, she siad. Other factors include whether programs are part of the university's niche, student success and the research and creativity of the department.

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"The money isn't everything with this. It's not even the most important thing. So it's not as simple as, 'Hey, we're going to get some money by cutting your program."

Schokker wouldn't rule out the elimination of programs and courses.

But she said milder measures -- such as departmental mergers, the consolidation of smaller classes and the shifting of courses to the summer -- should form the bulk of the changes.

"Just because you're a small program, that doesn't mean you're on the chopping block. But we may revision how we do some of those programs -- which means they may join forces with each other."

When told that faculty wonder why Duluth is making cuts when the budget crisis has passed at other campuses, she said:

"A couple of them have gone through it a little earlier than we have. I think we were lucky. Our enrollment didn't decline until this last year."

The financial situation appears more complicated than that. And Schokker had only 10 minutes or so to talk.

So I'm hoping to have another chat with her soon.