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CSU starts prioritization of academic, non-academic programs

Provost Mageean says university is interested in long-term sustainability

May 1, 2014

By Jordan Gonzalez


Cleveland State University Provost Deirdre Mageean is leading a “program prioritization” process that will categorize programs within each department to determine their future based on 10 different criteria.

Although the program has only recently making progress, Mageean said the idea has been sitting since the time she first came onto campus, but that there was a delay due to other priorities such as the four-three credit conversion.

Many universities across the country have followed the program prioritization method recently, including Akron University, whose Board of Trustees recently suspended around 29 programs it deemed were in need of revision with the intention of eliminating many of them, according to a report on cleveland.com.

Straining Cleveland State’s programs through the prioritization process will help the university sort out which programs and degrees are in demand and spread funding to them while taking money away from those that don’t pass the criteria, Mageean said.

“First of all we’re all interested in positioning the university for long-term sustainability,” Mageean said. “We’re in a very different fiscal environment than any university was five or 10 years ago.”

Part of that different fiscal environment is the fact that the formula for state funding will be changing “dramatically,” Mageean noted.
In previous years, state funding was based on enrollment numbers, but now it will be based on completed courses and graduation rates.

“The general principle behind this is the general forecast for revenues for universities is going to be flat or down,” said CLASS dean Gregory Sadlek. “Simply because states are supporting public universities less robustly than they have in the past. Also because demographics shifts, we’re all struggling to retain our enrollments and retain them if possible.”

For Mageean and Sadlek, they also see a need for strong and relevant programs.

“It’s a mix of budgetary pressures, but also we are looking at are we aligned in offering the right kind of degrees and programs that our students need,” Mageean said.

In order to distinguish a university from others they need to have really good signature programs, Sadlek said, adding that to get the money to invest in these programs, funds need to be transferred from dying programs to stable and healthy programs.

Much of the current push for prioritization by universities is influenced by a revised edition of a book, “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance,” by Robert C. Dickeson and Stanley O. Ikenberry.

Much of the criteria used in Cleveland State’s current move to prioritization is derived from this book (originally recognized in a budget task force), Mageean said.

While Mageean supports the criteria and was looking for a “holistic approach,” she said it doesn’t necessarily apply to each program.

“We reviewed those [original criteria] and modified them to better fit CSU and added some areas where the deans could supplement and provide additional information,” Mageean said. “For instance, one metric is external funding but clearly, this is not a significant metric for departments such as Art or Dance where juried exhibits and performances would be more appropriate metrics.”

Sadlek’s viewpoint was similar, emphasizing the importance of having the right criteria.

“If you ask me what’s a good program [and] what’s a bad program, my response has to be ‘well, what are your criteria’” Sadlek said.
“Universities are very complex organizations, and there are no simple criteria to distinguish a good program from a bad program.”

Along with the college deans, Mageean is working with several people in academic affairs and the budget’s office to get the job done.

The departments have sent the deans pre-populated data, using the institutional data that they have, and ran each program through the 10 criteria.

The data was returned to the deans so they could interpret the context. Recently, Mageean’s team finished the process of discussing it with the deans, and soon she will release the preliminary draft with recommendations.

The semester being almost over plays a major factor, Mageean said. While the provost, her team and the deans have 12-month jobs, the faculty do not and they have their summer break coming up.

“We have to be very sensitive to that,” Mageean said. “We can’t have them coming back to a different university.”
It is also new faculty hiring season for the fall of 2016, Mageean said.

This round of hiring decisions is a little more tactical, as they have to hire based of off programs that will be growing or decreasing.
In the meantime, they will take advantage of temporary hires and visiting hires in some cases.

“Clearly those kind of [new hire decisions] have to be strategic as well,” Mageean said. “So we’re trying to align the hiring with the strategic planning.”

In the meantime, any future action is in the air.

“There will be some changes coming out of this, I don’t know if they will be huge changes or more sophisticated and subtle,” Sadlek said. “But we have to wait and see the provost’s draft.”