IBHE to release second hit list

By Peter Schuh

NIU’s academic programs shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet, because the Illinois Board of Higher Education is firing a second surge of recommended program cuts at higher education.

Last year the IBHE recommended eliminating 190 programs state wide as part of its Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative, the aim of which is to cut the fat from Illinois public universities.

Out of the list of 190 programs, 15 belonged to NIU, including NIU’s College of Law and the Ph.D. in Psychology. NIU has agreed to cut all but six of the 15 programs.

However, the IBHE will release a second list of program cuts at its November meeting, IBHE Deputy Director Ross Hodel said. The list could include programs NIU refused to eliminate after the first PQP salvo.

According to Hodel, any cited program a university chose to retain that is not “economically of educationally justifiable” could appear on this year’s list.

“I do foresee, under that set of circumstances, that some programs will still be on the list,” he said. However, Hodel declined to go into specifics about NIU’s new hit list.

When presenting last year’s recommendations to Illinois’ public universities, IBHE chair Arthur Quern said that substitutions could be made of “comparable scope,” but no definition of the term has been given by the IBHE.

Although NIU’s administration did meet the IBHE’s financial requirement for reallocation, they did not try to match program levels—for example, trading one doctoral program for another.

This could put NIU’s College of Law and even its Ph.D. programs at risk of being on the list again this year.

James Alfini, College of Law dean, does not think this should be the case.

“It’s not so much that anything has changed with the college,” he said. “It’s just that their figures were wrong and I think they know their figures were wrong.”

NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody said he was not surprised the IBHE will be developing another list. However, he said he was unable to guess at how it would affect NIU.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Obviously Northern and other universities in the state aren’t fully complying with their recommendations.”

However, not only could some old programs be returned to the list, but the IBHE will be entering new recommendations for further program deletions.

Kathleen Kelly, IBHE deputy director for academic affairs, added that this year’s list could include programs from all parts of the university. “This year we looked at nearly all disciplines across the state,” she said. “That’s what we did last year.”

In relation to last year’s list, Kelly said she was “quite certain” this year’s list will be smaller. She also said it’s possible a university could have no programs on the list.

However, no final decisions have been made. Hodel said a lot of decisions related to the new list of recommendations depend on both the universities’ productivity reports, which are due Sept. 15, and the IBHE’s October meeting.

“All of this will be coming together over the next 30 days,” he said.