Chancellors report on program prioritization progress

Regents continue discussion of how best to align academic programs with resources

University of Colorado chancellors Tuesday discussed with the Board of Regents the progress of program prioritization on each campus. The process is aimed at eliminating redundancies and determining the relevance and necessity of existing programs.

Early in the discussion, Regent Stephen Ludwig said he was not convinced the campuses were fully on board with the prioritization process.

“I’m skeptical the campuses are going to take this seriously,” he said. “I get the sense we’re really committed to the way things are, and we’re running out of state money and we’re just going to have the students pay for it.

“I’m the most frustrated I've ever been on this board. I don’t know how to use my leadership position to help the university get honest about the cliff we’re facing.”

The chancellors strongly assured the board that was not the case, stressing that they recognize the importance of program prioritization.

UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said she has put together a core team to review academic and non-academic units. The committee plans to report its findings and recommendations to the board at its April meeting.

“We plan to use criteria such as student-faculty ratios, degrees produced, majors served, recent growth or declining trends around the funding, extramural activities and other data aimed at constructing a picture, program by program, of value to not only the university community but also to the communities we serve,” she said.

CU Denver Chancellor Don Elliman said several variables must factor into program prioritization.

“The number of our German majors might not look particularly compelling, but if we’re going to be offering modern languages I don’t know how the hell we do that without offering German,” he said. “We need to develop a process that not only looks at quantitative factors, but also the qualitative or objective factors.”

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano said the new Office for Performance Improvement, headed up by Jeffrey Luftig, associate vice chancellor for process innovation, will play an important role in program prioritization. CU-Boulder will look for increased efficiencies, higher graduation and retention rates and programmatic reviews by the discipline. He anticipates reporting his findings to the board at the end of the fiscal year.

Regents said they would help fund analytics to produce relevant quantitative and qualitative data to best enable the campuses to proceed.

“This is too important not to invest in,” said Regent Kyle Hybl.

The call for program prioritization is the result of a presentation to the board at its July retreat. Robert Dickeson, president emeritus of the University of Northern Colorado and co-founder of the Lumina Foundation for Education, walked the board through an extensive process for program prioritization, which includes administrative programs. It is based on the premise that there will not be new money, so reallocation of resources is necessary, though the process is complicated and requires buy-in throughout the organization.

The board at that point asked university leadership to begin discussions on the campuses about how CU would go about a thorough review of academic programs to ensure resources are aligned with priorities and strategic directions.

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