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Published November 12, 2020
The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has approved a plan to address a $42.3 million budget reduction in the current biennium, driven by a 10 percent cut in state funding that resulted in an immediate reduced distribution from the state earlier this year.
The board voted today (Thursday) to accept the plan presented by President Ed Seidel in accordance with UW Regulation 2-12, in response to cuts imposed by Gov. Mark Gordon as a result of a dramatic downturn in state revenue.
The plan affects both academic and nonacademic units of the university and eliminates 80 positions.
On the academic side, the plan eliminates 57 positions. Additionally, colleges and schools will reduce their support budgets -- including travel and professional development -- and operations budgets.
On the nonacademic side, 23 positions will be eliminated. Housing, dining, catering and conferences will be reorganized for greater efficiency and productivity. The Department of Athletics will reduce salaries and cut team travel costs. And the Office of the Provost will cut about 35 graduate teaching assistant positions and reduce spending on global engagement travel and operations.
“These reductions are not easy, and they certainly affect the ability of units of the university to perform critical functions. They will lead to reductions in the academic programs we are able to offer,” Seidel says. “But we’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact to our students; optimize the research we conduct to boost our state’s economy; and, where possible, strengthen the service we perform for the citizens of Wyoming. The university has reached a point where future loss of teaching faculty and staff support cannot be addressed by asking our remaining employees to simply assume yet more responsibilities.”
In light of the decrease in state funding -- and in light of the need to boost revenue from sources other than the state’s general fund to help maintain the quality of education provided by UW -- the trustees also voted to increase the standard tuition rate by 6 percent for the 2021-22 academic year. This applies to both undergraduates and graduates, both residents and nonresidents. It does not apply to programs with differential or market-based tuition rates, which are set separately.
Even with the increase, UW’s tuition rates remain among the lowest among universities in the country. The increase, which was supported by the Associated Students of UW (ASUW), is expected to generate about $3.2 million annually, based upon current enrollment numbers.
In concert with the budget reductions, over 20 low-enrollment academic programs have been identified for review for potential reorganization, consolidation, reduction or discontinuance -- with the potential to save $2.5 million annually. They include:
-- In the College of Arts and Sciences, the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and minor in American studies; the Master of Arts in psychology; the Bachelor of Science in journalism; the Master of Science in Teaching in chemistry; the Master of Arts in Teaching in history; and the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing would be eliminated.
-- In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Master of Science and Ph.D. programs in agronomy would be eliminated, and the community development concentration in agricultural economics would be refocused to more closely align with the strategic plan.
-- In the College of Business, minors in accounting, decision science, finance, human resource management and marketing would be eliminated; and the Master of Business Administration energy concentration would be suspended. Additionally, the business administration online bachelor’s program would be replaced with a human resources management online program.
-- In the College of Education, the bachelor’s program in secondary French, German and Spanish education would be eliminated.
-- In the College of Engineering and Applied Science, consolidation of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science would be considered.
-- In the College of Health Sciences, several curricula would be overhauled.
-- In the College of Law, the military justice/Judge Advocate General’s Corps track and the Summer Trial Institute in Alaska would be eliminated.
Academic program reorganizations, consolidations, reductions and discontinuances are governed by UW Regulation 2-13, which requires a maximum 120-day period of review to seek feedback from stakeholders including the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, ASUW and other interested parties. Under that timeline, the finalized academic reductions are slated to be presented to the trustees in February.
UW leaders are moving forward with a deeper analysis of all of the university’s academic programs to free up resources to advance the university’s “four pillars” priorities of becoming more digital, more entrepreneurial, more interdisciplinary and more inclusive. Proposed reorganizations, consolidations, reductions and discontinuances resulting from that analysis would be initiated under UW Regulation 2-13 next spring or summer.
This will be done in concert with a strategic planning process, including the appointment of a strategic planning leadership council.
“We know that elimination of some programs will be necessary to effectively pivot the university through shared governance processes toward a new vision that will enable us to become a best-in-class 21st century land-grant university true to its Wyoming roots,” Seidel says. “We are committed collectively to making decisions to prioritize specific programs for growth; others for elimination or consolidation; and creating new programs that may be needed to realize our common goals.”
Seidel and other UW leaders are working with the state’s community colleges, other state and federal agencies, private entities and others to develop programs and partnerships to propel the state’s economy through technological innovation and workforce development. Some of these will require a reallocation of university resources, in addition to new external sources of funding.
The budget reduction plan was informed by the work of UW’s Budget Reduction Working Group (BRWG), which includes administrators and representatives of faculty, staff and students. The BRWG conducted numerous listening sessions with faculty and staff members across the university this fall.