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BOT looks to cut below-standard programs

USF students will soon no longer be able to enroll or earn a degree in several undergraduate and graduate programs, as the university’s Board of Trustees (BOT) is hoping to put several out of commission.

The programs in question are those with ground-level enrollment and that do not meet USF’s standards. 

According to Provost Ralph Wilcox, the number of degrees produced is not the only benchmark programs must clear to remain part of USF’s offerings.

Among the other requirements are postgraduate employment viability and graduate school placement.

The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) also has regulations on degree termination, the reasons for which include low enrollment and a failure to meet “the needs of the citizens of Florida in providing a viable education or occupational objective.”

According to BOG Regulation 8.012, university boards of trustees have the authority to terminate undergraduate programs, but they must report their decision to the BOG within four weeks. However, in order to terminate a graduate program, such as the master’s in American studies, each board of trustees must recommend the change to the BOG with appropriate documentation.

The decision to cut several programs, such as the undergraduate-level foreign language education and both levels of American studies, came quickly in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott’s announced reprioritization of increases in employment from state school graduates.

Scott’s “Ready, Set, Work” College Challenge was announced on the same day the BOT workgroup approved the recommendation. According to the governor’s website, Florida’s 28 state colleges will be challenged to graduate “100 (percent) of their full-time students to attend a four year university or get a job that leads to a great career.”

In October, a report on Florida’s unemployment stated the level had reach a nearly decade-low 5.1 percent.

According to an article in the Tampa Tribune, the upshot of removing 39 degree programs in the last five years has been the addition of 27 more viable ones. One such program in cybersecurity has earned USF national attention.

But some have said the problem is not just with the number of programs that actually get the axe. BOT member Brian Lamb said the nearly 10 percent of below-threshold degree programs is too many. 

The full board will meet Thursday to make several final decisions regarding program additions and removals.