IBHE to release ‘hit list’

By Eric Krol

Both NIU and the Illinois Board of Higher Education will raise the stakes this week in their game of program poker.

The IBHE, which governs all state public universities, will release its list of recommended academic program cuts today.

The list is part of the IBHE’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative, which aims at streamlining state higher education through program reduction.

Also this week, NIU will mail its list of recommended program cuts and consolidations to the IBHE staff in Springfield, said Acting Provost J. Carroll Moody. All state universities have an Oct. 1 deadline to submit recommendations on how to meet the PQP goals.

The IBHE staff and the individual universities, including NIU, will compare the lists which both groups have been working on, and the IBHE staff will make recommendations to the board at its Oct. 6 meeting.

In a Friday press release, NIU President John La Tourette confirmed that 12 programs will be discussed between NIU and the IBHE staff.

La Tourette said he and other university presidents received advance “courtesy copies” of the IBHE list. However, La Tourette said he is “not at liberty” to disclose the information.

Two NIU programs which have been speculated as being on the IBHE hit list are the College of Law and the Professional Studies program.

Moody did not confirm either of these items, but said NIU will release its list later this week. “The universities were given the opportunity to have its materials go out with the (IBHE packet),” he said. “We wanted to do more work on ours.”

Moody declined to say what specific measures NIU will be recommending, but did say there will be some programmatic items on the list. In addition, NIU will recommend reallocation from lower priority to higher priority programs, he said.

La Tourette said NIU already has addressed two-thirds of the programs from an earlier IBHE list detailing unproductive programs. “As to the remaining third, we feel the (IBHE) staff commentary is not appropriate, based on the reviews we’ve already completed,” he said.

NIU’s announcement later this week comes on the heels of last week’s announcements by the University of Illinois. U of I completed its report to the IBHE staff and announced that it was eliminating 10 degree programs.

According to last Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times, most of the eliminated programs are on the graduate level. Another 15 programs are being evaluated for possible elimination.

The PQP initiative has been criticized by many within the higher education community because they say it cuts programs based on the number of degrees a program awards instead of program quality and need.

NIU’s strategy for dealing with the IBHE recommendations is not yet clear. Moody said NIU “will consider” the IBHE recommendations and added that there will be some areas of “strong disagreement.”

La Tourette said in most cases, eliminating individual degree programs does not result in substantial savings. “If a program is not as productive as it might be, the first thing you should do is to examine how to improve it, not assume that it should be eliminated.”

Moody said he stressed the point that the NIU faculty will have input every step of the way. “We intend to use the well-established processes of consultation,” he said.