IBHE to begin annual review

By Peter Schuh

A program review process being implemented by the Illinois Board of Higher Education could produce more program cuts at NIU, annually.

The new procedure, which is an offspring of the IBHE Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative, would allow the IBHE to compare similar academic programs from across the state using university reports based on IBHE data.

This could result in the IBHE recommending new program consolidations and eliminations annually based on Illinois universities’ programmatic reports and the IBHE staff statistics, said Kathleen Kelly, IBHE deputy director of academic affairs.

Last year under PQP, the IBHE recommended eliminating 190 academic programs across the state including 15 at NIU.

The new procedure, which is actually a revision of an old procedure included in the University Resource Allocation Management Program (RAMP), will require all Illinois public universities to review similar programs in the same year.

For example, the IBHE has told the universities to conduct program reviews this year in the area of health programs. Kelly said these reviews will be due next July.

In addition to telling the universities what to review and when to do it, the IBHE also is requiring the use of IBHE staff statistics in the review process.

Kelly said the statistics the universities will be given to use for reviewing a program “will include enrollment and degrees granted, occupational supply and demand information and any other specific considerations related to the field being reviewed.”

NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody said the possibility the IBHE would use this procedure to further trim the perceived fat out of higher education “certainly is not an unreasonable assumption.”

“I think the IBHE will generate the same type of quantitative data they generated in the PQP process,” he said. “Obviously, if they are going to use those productivity measures like they’ve done in the past it’s reasonable to assume they might do that (recommend new program cuts) as well.”

In addition, Moody said he thought the new procedure would change the way in which NIU’s Academic Planning Council reviews programs.

“Program reviews in the past have generally looked at the quality of the programs, but in this case I think the Academic Planning Council will now be looking at how these programs stack up against other programs in the state,” he said. “Assessment is going to be a much greater part of the program review.”

Kelly confirmed Moody’s statement that the program review will need to be concerned with how a program appears to stack up against similar programs in the state.

“There is no question that institutions will need to be looking at their positions of their programs compared to the state-wide average,” Kelly said.

Kelly insisted the new procedure would produce more than just program cuts.

“On the other hand, there could also be recommendations toward the expansion of some programs,” she said.

Moody also had some kind words for the new procedure.

“I don’t consider it a bad thing,” he said. “It might even improve the program review process.”

The new procedure is still officially in draft form, but Kelly said the implemented version will change very little from the draft.