Changing Course: Making the Hard Decisions to Eliminate Academic Programs

Changing Course: Making the Hard Decisions to Eliminate Academic Programs

Changing Course: Making the Hard Decisions to Eliminate Academic Programs

Changing Course: Making the Hard Decisions to Eliminate Academic Programs

Synopsis

Much of what we know about how colleges and universities function as organizations and how they change is based upon assumptions of growth and not the opposite. This book explores the process of program termination. It discusses the context leading institutions to consider program reduction.

Excerpt

Most American colleges and universities are facing difficult choices about how they will allocate (and reallocate) their increasingly scarce resources (both human and fiscal) and, more broadly, what they will do as an institution and how they will do it. Institutions are called upon to make, as one past university president said, choices that “are becoming painful” (Kennedy, 1994, p. 85) and that have the potential to make significant change and affect academic priorities of the institution. the new recession, fundamentally different than past financial downturns because of changes in funding patterns and increases in demand (Breneman, 2002), is pressing institutions to do new things and offer new programs while struggling to maintain costs and seek new sources of income.

The actions they may be forced to take could easily include drastic steps such as closing academic programs, as institutions have limited options through which to gain financial flexibility. the intended (but not always realized) purpose of program discontinuance is to strategically reshape an institution. Deciding to terminate programs is a difficult decision, and then deciding which to close is trying to any institutional leader because the changes can be emotionally charged, faculty can lose their jobs and have their life’s work interrupted, and the cuts have the potential to threaten institutions’ core values and alter institutional identities. Terminating programs creates turmoil and stress among those involved in making the decisions and those affected by the outcomes. These decisions can stir the emotions of administrators, faculty, trustees, alumni, the media, and policy makers. Rarely will they result in business as usual. Instead, they call for special processes and new insights, creating challenges for administrative and faculty leaders alike.

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