Low-enrolled degree programs

The following position statement was approved by APSCUF's legislative assembly in 2006.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties believes that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's performance objective of reducing the number of “low-enrolled degree programs” at each of the fourteen schools in the System is grievously flawed as currently articulated, threatening to do more harm than good.

The Association believes that

• Programs with fewer-than-average number of graduates are frequently among the most vibrant and energetic, adding intellectual diversity and career options to the System campuses;

• Programs with fewer-than-average graduates are frequently of enormous educational and economic value to the Commonwealth (Physics education and Spanish language are two examples.);

• Eliminating or threatening to eliminate perfectly healthy degree programs is a disservice to our current students: Closing a program after the last student leaves casts a shadow over the value of that degree for all of its graduates for the last several years;

• Eliminating or threatening to eliminate perfectly healthy degree programs is a disservice to our potential future students by removing the option of a high-quality, low-cost preparation for the careers of their choice in the State System and encouraging or forcing them to seek less attractive opportunities;

• Defining “low-enrolled” as graduating fewer than thirteen students per year is arbitrary and, when applied systemwide, places a particular burden on smaller schools, where program enrollment would naturally be lower than at larger schools;

• “Low enrollment,” however measured, should never be used as the sole criterion for program review, program moratoria, or program elimination.

The Association notes that the low-enrollment performance indicator, as currently articulated, has resulted in substantial confusion and inconsistency of application across the fourteen institutions, leading to

• moratoria on accepting new students;

• unwieldy and quality-compromising strategies to preserve endangered programs, such as combining programs or even academic departments;

• anxiety among students about whether or not they will be able to complete their chosen programs;

• uncertainty among faculty about whether to continue efforts to improve threatened programs.

Therefore, the Association calls upon the Board and Chancellor to revise the performance indicator so that it

• recognizes that some programs may be essential regardless of enrollment;

• articulates clearly what tangible benefits must be obtained to justify elimination of any particular program;

• avoids arbitrary limits, such as the rule of thirteen, which are not directly and tangibly linked to measurable benefits; and

• permit each campus to respond in ways that take into account the campus's size and unique character.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties stands ready to work with the Board of Governors and the Chancellor’s Office to develop a reasonable and effective policy on program size.