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UNI to add resources to high-demand academic majors and close programs with low graduation rates

March 8, 2012
Contact: 

James O'Connor, University Relations, (319) 273-2761

Stacey Christensen, University Relations, (319) 273-2761

Cedar Falls, Iowa -- University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen announced today academic program closures and restructuring that will be submitted to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa for approval. The academic program recommendations are the last significant part of the university's efforts to reallocate and realign resources to support academic priorities and future growth. UNI Executive Vice President and Provost, Gloria Gibson, met with UNI-United Faculty and the Faculty Senate as she and her leadership team developed the list of academic program changes.

"We remain committed to our vision to become one of the nation's premier public universities; our core mission is to provide the best academic experience for our students," said Allen.  "It is not financially sound to fund academic programs with few graduates. We have a responsibility to parents, students and taxpayers to be good stewards of our financial resources."

The academic program closures and restructuring are needed so we can reallocate resources to high-demand and potential-growth programs. On average, the programs listed for closure graduated fewer than two students per year over the last five years. Today's recommendation is for the closure of 23 undergraduate majors, 19 undergraduate minors, 16 graduate programs, and the restructuring of 19 programs. The programs listed represent less than 2 percent of the degrees granted in 2010-2011.

"These changes are required so we can focus on high-demand and potential-growth programs," said Gibson. "A process will start soon to identify those programs. It's also important to remember that while some academic programs will be closed or restructured, all academic departments will remain."

UNI currently has a total of 288 undergraduate majors, undergraduate minors and graduate programs. A full list of academic programs slated for closure or restructuring is online at http://www.uni.edu/program-changes/discontinued-academic-programs.

"All of the students enrolled in those programs will be able to finish their studies," said Gibson. "The decision to close programs was not based on the quality of the faculty, curriculum or students in a program. Rather, student demand has changed and it is no longer possible for UNI to fund programs with few graduates."

A number of tenured faculty members will be affected by the program closures and restructuring. The University will follow the Master Agreement with UNI-United Faculty and human resource guidelines in dealing with affected employees. Tenured faculty will be offered an Early Separation Incentive Package, which was approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa earlier this week. The total number of positions affected or amount of budget impact will not be clear until full implementation plans are complete.

Since 2009, UNI has addressed funding reductions through a series of cost-saving measures.  These included an early retirement incentive program (ERIP) under which faculty and staff elected to retire. Other cost-saving actions included temporarily reducing retirement contributions, negotiating changes in health insurance plans, collaborating with sister Regent institutions, outsourcing services, eliminating staff positions and reducing the support for auxiliary enterprises. 

This year's state budget reduced the level of funding for fiscal 2012 by $4.3 million below fiscal 2011. UNI will begin fiscal 2013 with an increased obligation of $4.1 million in union negotiated salary and benefit increases for faculty and staff.

"State funding may be a challenge, but our faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and donors recognize the value and tradition of UNI," said Allen. "We are defining our future by making strategic decisions today. Our goal is to strengthen the core mission of the University of Northern Iowa and offer an exceptional educational and collegiate experience for our students."