IBHE prepares second hit list

By Peter Schuh

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is taking up its axe in preparation for another attempt at chipping a few more programs off the academic block.

The axe will be aimed at NIU’s doctoral programs in geology, economics and special education. These programs, along with 27 others from across the state, have been recommended to the IBHE’s new hit list.

The new hit list, pending board approval next week, contains those programs cited as a low priority through a second round of the IBHE’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative.

The aim of PQP is to eliminate low priority programs at public universities and reallocate those resources to high priority areas.

Last years’ PQP hit list contained 190 academic programs statewide. One hundred and twenty-eight of those programs have been eliminated or are pending elimination.

This year’s list contains 30 programs resurrected from last year’s list. Nine of 12 public universities had programs returned to the hit list.

However, not all programs retained by the universities were returned to the list. NIU had several programs avoid the second list—the College of Law, the Ph.D. in psychology, the performer’s certificate in music and the M.S.Ed. in school business management.

The IBHE staff said it was “persuaded” by NIU as to the importance of these programs.

The staff has added a new twist to this year’s recommendations. By declaring the returning programs “economically and educationally unjustified” they are sending these recommendations directly to the universities’ governing boards, bypassing the heads of university administrators and forcing the governing boards to take direct responsibility for any decisions made on the programs.

“We are, of course, disappointed that the IBHE staff has chosen to declare that our doctoral programs in economics, geology and special education are ‘educationally and economically unjustified,'” said NIU President John La Tourette in a statement yesterday.

“The university’s decision not to eliminate these programs came at the end of a long and difficult campus deliberative process, a process that resulted in the recommendations to eliminate 12 degree programs. We continue to believe that these doctoral programs are good programs fulfilling regional needs and consistent with the university’s mission,” he added.

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said the Regency universities went through “a pretty satisfactory review process” of the IBHE recommended programs last year. The Regency universities include NIU, Sangamon State University in Springfield and Illinois State University at Normal.

He said he backs the universities’ recommendations. However, Groves said the Regents will review the programs again if the IBHE requests they do so.

He added he did not want to make any “specific comment” about the new recommendations because the board members had not yet approved them.

“What we’re dealing with is a staff recommendation,” he said. “It is not yet a Board of Higher Education action.”

The IBHE will take action on the new recommendations during its meeting in Chicago next Tuesday.