Board Votes to Eliminate, Modify Academic Programs; Reduce Scope of Non-Academic Programs

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Nov. 13, 2003 – The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents today  voted  to balance the budget by eliminating three academic programs with low numbers of majors, modifying other academic programs, and reducing the scope of several non-academic units, including intercollegiate athletics.

Southeast President Kenneth W. Dobbins said the targeted reduction in academic and non-academic programs is necessary to reduce expenditures and keep student fees as low as possible while minimizing the number of students impacted and maintaining quality throughout the University after massive cuts in state appropriations over the past two years.

The Board declared a state of financial emergency on June 12, 2002, after the state withheld over $7 million from Southeast’s FY02 appropriation near the end of the 2002 fiscal year.

That state of emergency was reaffirmed by the Board on June 27, 2003, as a result of 10% and 6.8% reductions in the University’s base appropriations for FY03 and FY04, respectively.

Southeast’s base appropriation is now $8.5 million less than it was in FY01, and one-time withholdings since FY01 have reduced the amount of state funding available for operation of the institution by almost $10 million more.

In response to these reductions, the Board directed the president to conduct a review of all academic and nonacademic programs, a review of the faculty profile, and a review of all curricula within University Studies and academic majors.

The targeted budget reductions and revenue enhancements approved by the Board today will total approximately $1.4 million — $1 million from academic restructuring and $400,000 from non-instructional areas at the University.

Dr. Ivy Locke, vice president for business and finance, pointed out that today’s action is only part of the budget reduction process that has taken place since the declaration of a financial emergency in June 2002.

Since that time, not including the action taken today, she said the University has eliminated 26.5 staff positions, including 8 in self-funded auxiliary units. Four vacant faculty positions have also been eliminated. The total budget reduction from these earlier personnel changes is $1.1 million.

Prior to today, Southeast has also made permanent reductions in base operations and equipment budgets totaling $1.4 million, of which 59% came from non-instructional areas and 41% from academic units.

By focusing on a limited number of academic programs in the review leading up to today’s decisions, University officials said they would not have to make across-the-board reductions that would reduce the quality of academic programs and services throughout the institution. Dobbins pointed out that the University has already achieved national accreditation for all but two of its academic programs for which such certification of quality is available, and said the University will maintain its current accreditations while pursuing accreditation for the two remaining programs.

While 18 academic programs were reviewed this Fall for possible elimination or reduction, only three of these will actually be eliminated by today’s Board action.

The majors to be eliminated as of June 30, 2005 are Geography, Sociology, and Geosciences (graduate and undergraduate). Some consolidations or reductions in faculty will be made in other academic programs.

Provost Stephens said the elimination of a major does not mean the University will no longer offer courses in that subject. “We will continue to teach classes in those academic areas in which majors and minors have been cut, so students will still be able to learn about those subjects, such as Geography and Earth Science.”

She also said that in most cases seniors and juniors in the affected programs will be able to complete their current degree programs, since the effective date of the cuts is June 30, 2005. In the case of other students, the University will make every effort to minimize the negative impact by providing assistance in choosing another major here at Southeast or accelerating taking courses in the major where possible, Stephens said.

An assessment of the number of students impacted by today’s decision shows that a total of 61 undergraduate and graduate students are currently declared majors in Geography, Geosciences, and Sociology. Of these, only 13 students are freshman and sophomores. The other 79% are juniors and seniors, and should be able to complete their current degree programs at Southeast, the Provost indicated.

Programs scheduled to lose faculty at the end of the 2005 fiscal year under the approved plan include: Geosciences (3), Sociology (2), and one each in Geography, Physics, Philosophy and Religion, Economics, and Agriculture, which will be merged with the major in Agri-Business. Seven graduate assistantships will also be eliminated.

The University projects a base budget saving of $625,000 as a result of these academic changes.

The approved plan also requires future reviews of several programs that were not targeted for elimination in today’s decision. Programs in Corporate Communication, Organizational Administration, Physics, French, Food Service and Hospitality Management, Speech, Dance, and Economics will all be reviewed again in Spring 2005 for the number of majors and/or graduates.

Additional academic budget savings will include $150,000 by increasing the ratio of non-tenure track to tenure track faculty by fiscal year 2006. The cap of 15% non-tenure track faculty was raised to a cap of 20% by Board action in September. Provost Stephens told the Board that the change would provide more flexibility in meeting student demand, would be cost-effective, and still maintain program quality.Another $200,000 is to be generated by fiscal year 2006 through modest increases in the size of some classes where feasible, reducing course choices in University Studies categories, tighter scheduling of upper level courses where possible, and by reviewing the consistency of 12-hour teaching loads throughout the University.

Specific faculty members who will leave the University have not been identified, pending the outcome of the offer of a voluntary retirement incentive program (VRIP) that was also approved by the Regents today for tenured faculty in the eliminated or reduced programs.

Under that voluntary program, tenured faculty eligible for retirement under the Missouri Employee Retirement System (MOSERS) who are in programs targeted for elimination or reduction as a result of the program review and voluntarily retire on or before May 31, 2005, will receive a lump sum incentive and up to five years of individual health insurance benefits. The lump sum incentive will be equal to the eligible faculty member’s FY04 base salary.

After the VRIP implementation, if it is necessary to involuntarily terminate additional tenured faculty to achieve the needed faculty size, those faculty would receive a lump sum payment of $1,000 per year of Southeast service or half of their FY04 base salary, whichever is greater, and a continuation of the faculty member’s individual health insurance for up to 18 months.

ATHLETIC PROGRAM ELIMINATEDOn the non-academic side, the Board voted to eliminate the men’s golf program effective June 30, 2005, and to change the operation of a number of administrative units for a total budget impact for non-academic programs of $400,000, including several revenue-enhancing initiatives to fund operations and the addition of one or two needed positions, and the elimination of three to four other staff positions.

“As painful as these decisions are, they were necessary in order for the University to operate with the reduced level of state funding that is probable in the coming years,” said Donald L. Dickerson, president of the Southeast Board of Regents.

TO MAINTAIN HIGHER EDUCATION ACCESS, QUALITYDickerson said that with the state’s ongoing revenue shortfall, the Board believes that failing to review current programs would force the University to raise student fees to such a level that access to higher education would be dramatically reduced.

He noted that numerous stories in the media indicate that long-established academic programs are at risk throughout the nation due to the necessity of aligning expenditures with reduced state revenues. Southeast Missouri State University is not immune from this nationwide problem, he said.

President Dobbins said the University’s responses to the financial emergency extend back to May of 2002. He said he and the Board expect that the decisions made today will deal with the 17% base budget cuts and almost $10 million of additional one-time withholdings over the last three fiscal years. However, Dobbins said further cuts by the General Assembly and the Governor could result in future program reductions and fee increases.

While the current phase one of the program review process is now over, Dobbins said the University will continue efforts to make certain it operates with the greatest possible efficiency. “In the second phase, over the next year,” he continued “we will review our mission statement and strategic plan, and establish an ongoing process for reviewing our academic and non-academic programs, to make certain that all of them are cost-efficient, support the mission of the University and serve the region.”

“In the current process, we have made only a few academic program cuts as part of the effort to maintain affordability and access without affecting overall quality of the educational experience at Southeast. This was a financially responsible thing to do,” the president said.

QUALITY ACADEMICS AND PRACTICAL EXPERIENCES“We remain deeply committed to our goals of providing ‘real world’ experiences to all students in all of our academic programs, keeping class sizes small, employing fully qualified faculty, and offering our students nationally accredited academic programs in every discipline which has such accreditation available. Nothing we have done changes those commitments,” Dobbins continued.

“While painful, the academic program cuts we have made were minimal, eliminating only three majors that were of interest to very few students, but these and other changes will result in a significant reduction in base costs,” said Dr. Jane Stephens, Southeast provost.Dobbins indicated that students not only will continue to experience top quality educational programs taught by fully qualified faculty using state of the art instructional technology, but also will continue to experience top quality “student life” and support services.

EMERGENCY DATES TO MAY 2002 The financial emergency was triggered in May 2002, when state revenue shortfalls led to the withholding of $7.16 million from the University’s FY02 appropriation just six weeks before the end of the fiscal year.

The University’s state appropriation for FY03 included a 10% reduction ($5.03 million) in the base appropriation plus $1.52 million in one-time withholdings.

For FY04, the base state appropriation was cut by another 6.8% ($3.088 million) and an additional $1.07 million has been withheld from that appropriation so far in the current fiscal year.

The appropriation process for FY05, which begins next July 1, is just beginning, but there are projections that the state will face a larger shortfall than in FY04, which will likely result in additional reductions in the state appropriation for higher education.

At the September 19, 2003, Board of Regents meeting, Phase I academic program review was approved for 18 programs representing the one-fourth of all programs having the lowest number of majors over a three-year period.

As part of the process, President Dobbins appointed a Faculty Advisory Committee from nominees provided by the Faculty Senate to review the process and departmental responses and to provide advice and counsel. Final recommendations on programs to be eliminated or reduced, however, were made by the President and Provost.

At the same time, the University’s executive staff and other administrators examined non-instructional areas and made recommendations for both cost reduction and revenue enhancement.

In commenting on today’s action, Dobbins reiterated statements he first made in a letter sent to all faculty in September. “The program review process under financial emergency conditions is perhaps the most difficult task that can be undertaken by any college or university,” the president said. “The elimination of some positions now filled by friends and colleagues, including some who hold tenure, is something none of us would choose to do if given different circumstances, but the Board and I believe it must be done for the health and future well being of our entire University community in these tough financial times.”

He pledged that carrying out the Board’s decision to eliminate several programs would be conducted in the most humane and caring manner, and said the University will continue to serve its students and the region as in the past, while moving ahead with major initiatives.

He said the University will provide all possible assistance to colleagues adversely affected by the decisions made because of the budgetary challenges, and will minimize the negative impact of our decisions on students by providing all possible assistance to any student who is adversely affected by the decisions.