After several months of review that included input from deans, department chairs, faculty and others, West Virginia University has made preliminary recommendations to adjust its academic offerings to better serve the needs of its students.
• Continue at the current level of activity (no recommended changes for the program)
• Continue at the current level of activity with specific action (the program will continue to exist, but there are recommended changes for the program, including reduction of faculty positions)
• Development of a cooperative program (potentially merging one or more programs together to create a new program/curriculum)
• Discontinue the program (program will no longer exist after a teach out is completed)
Within the preliminary recommendations, 32 of the 338 majors offered on the Morgantown campus have been recommended for discontinuation; 12 of those are undergraduate majors and 20 are graduate-level majors. According to Fall 2023 enrollment numbers, this will affect 147 undergraduate students and 287 graduate students, representing approximately less than 2% of total student enrollment.
The preliminary recommendations also included 169 potential faculty line reductions, or 7% of total faculty in Morgantown.
“While we view these preliminary recommendations for reductions and discontinuations as necessary, we are keenly aware of the people they will affect,” said President Gordon Gee. “We do not take that lightly. These faculty are our colleagues, our neighbors and our friends. These decisions are difficult to make.
“However, the Board of Governors charged us to focus on what will best serve the needs of our students and our state,” he continued. “Students have choices, and if we aim to improve our enrollment numbers and recruit students to our University, we must have the programs and majors that are most relevant to their needs and the future needs of industry. I have said many times higher education is at an inflection point. We are addressing the many challenges that higher education is facing so that we can be an even stronger university in the future.”
Preliminary recommendation decisions were made through a holistic, data-informed process. Input was considered from a variety of sources, including:
• An extensive review of student demand trends, instructional activity and efficiency, and financial data
• Unit self-study reports
• Feedback from deans and college leadership
WVU senior leadership reviewed and approved all preliminary recommendations and affirmed mission priorities.
“We approached the process holistically considering a variety of factors, including the potential for enrollment growth,” said Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We had to be forward thinking and put personal biases aside. These preliminary recommendations will allow the University to invest in those areas that are more relevant to today’s student.
“Part of this process is a focus on realigning resources to support areas of growth and student demand. This requires the University to make hard, mission-based decisions about which programs to support and those we can no longer afford to offer.”
One such recommendation is to dissolve the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics and to discontinue the seven programs it offers and related instructional activity. Through the previous and current program review process, the data showed that student interest in the WLLL programs is very low and declining.
This trend is not unique to WVU. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually across all areas of foreign languages, literatures and linguistics has declined 25% nationally and 30% in WVU’s primary recruiting states between 2010-2021.
Additionally, the University is reviewing plans to eliminate the language requirement for all majors. However, recognizing that some students will still want access to foreign language instruction, the University is exploring alternative methods of delivery such as a partnership with an online language app or online partnership with a fellow Big 12 university.
“Today’s students are open to different methods of instruction and learning,” Gee said. “To be a modern land-grant university, we must provide modern ways of delivering content that they find meaningful and relevant.”
The University is also seeking to modernize its curriculum to better meet the needs of today’s industry and provide stronger job pathways for students. For example, Mining Engineering has experienced a decline in enrollment, yet this area is critical to the state and the region, and there is unmet occupational demand. Also experiencing similar challenges is the Petroleum and Natural Gas program. The preliminary recommendation is to combine the two units into a single unit that prepares students for the current and evolving energy economy.
Faculty can appeal the preliminary recommendations as outlined on the Academic Transformation website. A Notice of Intent to Appeal must be filed by Aug. 18. Two sessions will be held Aug. 15 and Aug. 21 to share more information on that process.
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