Low producing majors in danger of being cut

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Clarification: Although the major in Greek will be eliminated, certain degree plans will still require students to enroll in Greek courses, and UT will still offer Greek language classes.

UT is the only public university in Texas to offer an undergraduate degree in Greek studies, but students entering the University after the current academic year will no longer be able to declare a major in the program.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board directed UT to eliminate its degree in Greek studies following this academic year. The board has suggested colleges cut certain degree programs with low enrollment in order to ease state-wide budget cuts to education.

Every five years, the board evaluates every program at public universities and community and technical colleges in the state to determine which programs produce the fewest degrees. Programs that award an associate degree or bachelor’s degree to fewer than 25 students within five years are considered low-producing and are at risk of elimination because of the board’s new standard. This year, board members directed colleges and universities offering programs that do not meet the 25-student requirement to phase out the substandard degree, consolidate the degree into another program or apply for a temporary exemption from the stipulation.

The board stopped accepting appeals Friday, and denied UT’s appeal to retain its Greek studies degree, offered by the Department of Classics.

In addition to the Greek major, board members identified 13 other bachelor’s degrees offered by UT as low in productivity. Of the 14 total, six were granted temporary extensions and seven were allotted consolidation into other programs.

“Given the budget challenges, our board decided we need to be much more prudent about levels of productivity we should expect from out institutions,” said Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “Last fall we did a cost-efficiency study and found these [smaller programs] to be less cost-efficient.”

Chavez said the phase-out and consolidation processes of certain degrees will be done in the best interest of students, and those currently majoring in a low-producing degree will still be allowed to graduate from the program.

Stephen White, classics department chair, said he is astonished at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s reasoning in denying the appeal, because only two other universities in the state offer the degree. He said Baylor University and Trinity University, both private schools, will be the only universities offering a bachelor’s degree in Greek after the phase-out.

“One of the points I made in requesting an extension is that this major is not offered at another public institution in the state,” White said.

White said in addition to Greek, the classics department offers four other degrees that require students to learn the language, and many non-Greek majors enroll in Greek courses each year. White said though the courses are popular, the department has not awarded any degrees in Greek over the past two years.

The Latin major offered by the Classics department fell two graduates short of the requirement and was also listed as low-producing, but received temporary extension by the board.

Undergraduate academic advisor Lynn Gadd said despite the board’s analysis, she does not feel the classics department is in danger of total elimination.

“Our Latin program is strong, one of the strongest in the nation,” Gadd said. “If [students are] really interested in the classics and want to go into graduate school they really need Latin and Greek. We’re such a strong department, even though we’re small in the scope of the University we’re really large in the scope of the nation.”

Printed on September 22, 2011 as: Greek studies to be eliminated from UT majors