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UNI cuts pass regents committee, head to full board

Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –

Academic program cuts at the University of Northern Iowa took a step toward approval Wednesday morning, when a committee of the state Board of Regents voted to send the proposals to the full board for discussion later in the day.

The board’s education and student affairs committee Wednesday morning heard about the planned cuts from UNI Provost Gloria Gibson. The programs on the list are smaller programs with lower graduation rates, Gibson said.

UNI officials still have no financial estimate for the savings that would result from the cuts, Gibson said, mostly because it’s still unknown how many faculty might take part in a buyout program. She said officials remain committed to strong academic programs and helping students find other options in their areas of interest.

“I certainly don’t think cutting these will be detrimental to the university,” Gibson told the committee members.

Regents Katie Mulholland and Greta Johnson are on the committee, along with Gibson and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman from Iowa State University and Provost Barry Butler from the University of Iowa. Regents office staff member Diana Gonzalez, the chief academic officer, also is on the committee. All members supported sending the cuts to the full board after about 40 minutes of discussion.

The regents are slated to discuss the UNI cuts later Wednesday; the board is meeting in Iowa City.

UNI officials feel they did their due diligence in making the recommendations and that programs across campus were considered, Gibson said. She noted that faculty do not agree with some of the cuts and many feel that other non-academic areas should have been cut more, such as athletics.

“I feel that we have given due diligence to this process,” she said. “That is not the feeling of many across campus. You’re never going to get 100 percent agreement.”

After receiving many calls and emails, UNI officials did remove the physics BS program from the list to be cut, Gibson said. The physics BA program was added to the cuts list, and the physics BS was shifted to the “restructure” list, she said.

Gibson said those changes leading up to the regents meeting show that UNI officials were responsive to faculty and student concerns, that they were listening.

UNI officials say the recommended program closures and suspensions are required to allow the university to address budget challenges, both immediate and long-term, and to focus resources on strategic and high-demand programs.

Gibson said she had no estimate for financial savings from the cuts as of Wednesday, but she said in the first year the savings would help cover an $800,000 shortfall. After that, the savings would go toward other academic programs, she said.

The list of programs slated for closure has changed slightly since UNI officials first announced the plans about two weeks ago. The cuts include 22 undergraduate programs, 20 minors and 16 graduate programs. The regents also will consider suspension of admission to eight undergraduate and graduate programs.

Part of the reason financial savings are still unknown, officials said, is because affected tenured faculty members have about another month to decide about participating in a buy-out incentive program.

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