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UW finalizes plan to cut 11 academic programs, spares advanced degrees in creative writing, American studies
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UW finalizes plan to cut 11 academic programs, spares advanced degrees in creative writing, American studies

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UW Campus

Students leave William Robertson Coe Library on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie on Oct. 2, 2019.

Eleven academic programs at the University of Wyoming will be eliminated, the board of trustees decided Wednesday. Two programs that were previously proposed for elimination will not be among them, however.

The programs approved for elimination include: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, minors in the College of Business, Psychology Master of Arts, Chemistry Master of Science in teaching, Bachelor of Science in journalism, History Master of Arts in teaching, a joint program between veterinary sciences and zoology, Community Development Focus in Agricultural and Applied Economics, and Bachelor of Arts programs in secondary French, German and Spanish education.

The Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program and the bachelor’s and master’s programs in American Studies were taken off the chopping block by the school’s Academic Planning Committee during a Jan. 22 meeting, but they aren’t safe yet.

A memo from that meeting reads, “The following two proposals affect more faculty and students. The (academic planning committee) need(s) more time and information before we can give a well-reasoned recommendation. The university is working on a new strategic plan and hopefully will have more defined criteria for eliminating programs in the near future.”

The university in October announced its intentions to cut 78 staff jobs and nearly 20 degree programs amid a statewide budget crisis brought on by the declining fossil fuel industry and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elements of that plan were finalized during Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting.

Several of the eliminated programs are expected to have a minimal impact on students and staff, according to a memo outlining the cuts. Four of the programs have had “no students … for several years.” The journalism and business administration programs are also expected to have minor impacts, as students would be able to access similar programs.

Journalism students, for example, will still be able to pursue Bachelor of Arts degrees in that field.

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University spokesperson Chad Baldwin has also said students currently in the eliminated programs will be able to finish their degrees before the disciplines are removed.

The cuts approved so far will have a minimal impact on the university’s cost-saving goals, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne Alexander told the board Wednesday.

When the university first announced it would consider eliminating those degrees, it anticipated a $2.5 million savings — just a dent in the institution’s obligation to shave $42 million from its two-year budget.

Anticipating a roughly $1.5 billion budget shortfall, Gov. Mark Gordon over the summer asked state agencies and the University of Wyoming to develop a plan to cut their budgets by 10%.

Last month, the board of trustees was told the university is planning to cut $20 million from its budget by eliminating and consolidating academic programs, but the bulk of that review is expected to last through May.

“People should not take this as an indication that the entire portfolio review we’re taking on right now will lead to minimal change,” UW President Ed Seidel told the board Wednesday. “There will be very, very serious changes coming.”

He added this first round of cuts was a “trial run” for what’s to come. “The next round is going to be much harder than this one.”

Alexander said last month every program the university offers will be reviewed for that effort. She said there was no way to know how many programs will be eliminated until they are reviewed, but she did call the cuts unprecedented, adding, “this is going to be a major undertaking.”

Follow health and education reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @m0rgan_hughes

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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