An update on actions and plans10/01/2018
This is the first in a series of updates to the Akron community about developments at The University of Akron. These emails will provide you with accurate information about our actions and plans, which are intended to offer our students more distinctive degrees and make our operations more efficient.
These messages will be as concise as possible out of respect for your time. They will include material that is new or worth repeating. Each update will conclude with news items that reflect the excellence of our programs, faculty and students.
We welcome any insights, suggestions or constructive criticisms.
Thank you for your continuing support of our University.
UA – like many other higher education institutions – faces financial challenges that principally are the result of declining enrollments. In some cases, like ours, those impacts have surfaced a bit earlier than is the case for others. Recent, meaningful steps to stabilize and improve the University’s financial situation have produced good results and encouraging signs for future improvement. However, a structural General Fund deficit still exists and will persist until our enrollment rebounds significantly. This reality means that we need to move expeditiously to further align our programs, resources and strategies with growth opportunities. Doing so will ease our financial challenges, and enable our presidential search to attract better qualified candidates. The following steps are intended to strengthen the University financially, organizationally and strategically.
Academic Program Review (APR)
Last month the Board of Trustees accepted recommendations on areas of investment and the phasing out of selected academic programs, based on the information gathered in our year-long Academic Program Review. The APR process was faculty-led and involved faculty and administrators at every level of the information-gathering and evaluation process. Details are available here.
About 95% of UA students are in degree programs and degree tracks unaffected by the APR decisions. Students in programs scheduled to be phased out have been assured that no degree or degree tracks will end until all students admitted into them graduate or leave the programs.
Understandably, alumni and faculty from programs slated for phase out have respectfully, passionately and professionally voiced their objections. As much as is possible, their individual letters and emails receive individual responses. In addition, the administration is meeting with college and departmental advisory councils, which are comprised of local business and industry leaders, to explain the rationale and effects of these decisions.
Admission is suspended for degree programs scheduled for phase-out. Steps are being taken (the process of hiring faculty) to begin investment in degree programs identified as offering strong potential growth and opportunity.
As part of our efforts to better position UA to attract, retain and graduate more students, we have started conversations with faculty in the colleges of engineering, polymer science & polymer engineering, and applied science & technology, as well as those in five departments from other colleges, as to how we might better organize these units. As I explained to the faculty, “We need to make it easy for prospective students to determine where their interests might fit within our academic offerings structure. In addition, current students who find their original career path unsuitable, should be able to easily identify alternative avenues to a degree. In our current configuration, multiple, related degrees or degree tracks offered in different colleges often make it difficult for students to see their options. Locating related areas of study within the same college could help reduce those difficulties and enable us to provide better guidance and support to those students.”
The proposals were designed to spark constructive and productive discussions about ways to improve the University and I welcome and want input. In keeping with our principles of shared governance, we will forward comments and suggestions to the Faculty Senate next February and I will report back to the Board of Trustees at our December 5th meeting on what we have learned so far.
Development of Action Plan and Next Year’s Budget
The development of a new, truly actionable plan must be among our highest priorities. A Steering Committee has been appointed that includes representatives from University Council, Faculty Senate, the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the administration, contract professionals, staff and students. The committee will facilitate a process for the development of an inclusive, realistic and actionable three-year plan for all academic, administrative and auxiliary units. The process begins on Oct. 3rd, and the goal is to finish by December. The short timetable is driven by a need to have the plan in place so it may inform the preparation of the 2019/2020 budget, as well as the search for the next president.