FAQs Related to Enrollment, Budget and Resource Allocation Decisions
On April 14, 2022, UNC President Andy Feinstein shared a message with the university community in response to some of the questions and concerns that have arisen after UNC announced the closure of three undergraduate language programs and the decision to not renew some faculty positions. The following are answers to some frequently asked questions relating to these decisions. Laura Connolley, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), also shared a message with HSS students, faculty, and staff on April 13, 2022 providing additional transparency around the decisions within her college.
- If UNC is in a good financial position, why are we seeing changes to programs?
Thanks to the hard work done by UNC employees over the past three years and to the cash infusion from one-time federal COVID relief funds, UNC is in the strongest cash position it has been in for a number of years. While we are currently in a good cash position, we must continue to actively manage our efforts around the budget in order to sustain this position. This means that we must regularly examine our full academic portfolio to ensure we are investing in new programs and existing programs that have student demand and, at times, make the hard decision to suspend or discontinue low-enrolled programs. Such changes can be difficult, particularly when they directly affect faculty who are known and trusted by our students. As a public university, we have the responsibility to ensure that we allocate our resources to meet student demand and maintain academic quality.
Even in the best of financial times, we have the responsibility to be mindful of the investments we make using taxpayer and tuition dollars. Over the last three years, including those during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNC has experienced a significant decline in undergraduate enrollment that amounts to roughly 29% fewer undergraduate students. These changes give yet another reason that we must continue to review our academic offerings to be sure we are providing programs that attract and help retain students while contributing to their success.
- How is UNC investing in the overall student academic experience?
As UNC assesses our academic offerings to ensure we are responding to student demand and continuing to meet workforce needs, we must always seek opportunities for innovation while also using existing resources to meet our students’ needs. We will continue to ensure we are stewarding our resources wisely by building schedules to meet student demand and shifting resources to where they are needed at the institution. Such shifting of resources enables UNC to offer classes that students need to graduate across the entire institution. As such, we continue to hire new faculty in areas of high demand while pursuing opportunities to revitalize existing programs and create new, innovative programs in service to the needs of the region and the state.
- Which academic programs has UNC recently eliminated and why?
UNC announced the closure of three of our Language BA programs in February 2022 — European Languages and Cultures, French, and German. These programs all have had longstanding issues with single-digit enrollments, leading to concerns about program quality and program viability. Those small numbers do not provide the high-quality educational experience that our students deserve. Faculty in these programs were in conversation with college and university leadership over a number of years before this decision was reached.
- Do these program closures take effect immediately?
When a program is closed, the process takes place slowly. It begins with no new students being admitted into the program. Students already in the programs continue to have the opportunity to progress towards graduation. We are deeply committed to ensuring that all students at UNC will continue to have the opportunity to get the classes they need to graduate in four years and have access to the student support services they need to be successful. These are key tenets to being a Students First university.
- Will the students already enrolled in those programs need to change majors or transfer?
All students are given the opportunity to continue majoring in these programs on what is known as a teach out plan. UNC is working with the eight students currently enrolled in these three programs to create individualized plans to ensure they have a clear and timely path to graduation.
- Will additional programs be cut?
There are no plans to cut additional programs at this time. However, in the longer term, UNC must continue to review programs with low enrollments to determine if there is a need to make additional changes to academic offerings.
- How do we make decisions about program closures at UNC?
As an ongoing part of the work we do at UNC within departments, schools, and colleges, faculty assess enrollments, course schedules, and overall program health. Sometimes faculty make the decision to suspend admissions or sunset their program, and this request is made subsequently to the dean and the provost. This process enables us to think collectively and collaboratively about the impacts of program closures, as well as the ways in which we can support faculty to deliver high-quality academic programs across the institution. This is the most common pathway towards decisions about program suspension or elimination. In some cases, the program review process (which occurs approximately every 5 years) also provides a pathway towards the assessment of program viability, sometimes resulting in the suspension or elimination of a program. And, in a small number of cases, conversations occur among faculty and deans over a longer period until a decision is made (usually at the level of the dean) to recommend discontinuation of a program due to lack of long-term viability and concerns about program quality.
- Are there external factors impacting enrollments in these programs?
There are numerous factors impacting enrollments at UNC. First-time undergraduate students come to college with more and more credits every year. This is due to factors in the state of Colorado that include: (1) the increased offerings of dual and concurrent enrollment for high school students; (2) the wide availability of community college offerings; and (3) pandemic-related shifts in college attendance. Moreover, the state revised the Guaranteed Transfer Pathways, resulting in a reduction to 31 units for the transferable general education curriculum across all institutions in the state. Effective fall 2021, UNC faculty chose to align our curriculum with the state changes, reducing the university’s liberal arts curriculum from 40 to 31 units.
Compounded by these external factors and the overall decline of students choosing to major in the liberal arts nationally, UNC’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences has experienced a steep decline in enrollment over the past few years. To a significant extent, this trend is driven by the factors mentioned above: more general education (LAC) units taken by students before they arrive at UNC. Plus, the National Student Clearinghouse Data and IPEDS data alike point to a steady decline in the liberal arts over the past decade. This is a national phenomenon, and despite strong program offerings and incredibly committed and accomplished faculty in these disciplines, UNC is not immune to such trends.
- Why was the decision made to not renew some faculty positions?
UNC is proud to have highly skilled and qualified faculty in our tenure-track, tenured, and contract renewable (i.e., full-time, one-year contract) ranks. This spring, the decision was made to non-renew a tenure-track faculty member in World Languages. This decision was made in compliance with Board policy and in concert with the closure of language programs in which the faculty member teaches.
Regarding contract renewable (CR) faculty: in most cases, their primary responsibility is to teach in areas where we have demand for classes but do not have tenured or tenure-track faculty expertise, or where our tenured or tenure-track faculty do not have sufficient available teaching load to teach the courses our students need to graduate. As demand for specific courses decreases, as it has recently, the university has less need for contract renewable faculty because tenured and tenure-track faculty receive teaching assignments first. Recent decisions not to renew contract renewable positions were made when available tenured and tenure-track faculty had the expertise and sufficient available teaching load available to meet course demands.
- What is happening with faculty position in Chicano/a & Latinx Studies?
The university is working with Chicano/a & Latinx Studies to ensure that staffing needs are met given the impending retirement of a senior faculty member. The Provost has made an explicit commitment to support the department’s needs and she and Dean Connolly have approved a search for a replacement hire.