Archive for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

KU’s less popular degree programs could be target of state review

January 11, 2011

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Programs with less than 10 degrees

Kansas University’s smallest bachelor’s degree programs, with the average number of degrees awarded from fiscal years 2006-2010.

  • Physics: 9.4 degrees
  • Germanic languages and literatures: 9.2 degrees
  • Humanities: 9.0 degrees
  • Slavic languages and literatures: 7.5 degrees
  • Visual arts education: 7.5 degrees
  • Dance: 7.0 degrees
  • Music therapy: 6.0 degrees
  • Engineering physics: 4.6 degrees
  • Petroleum engineering: 4.4. degrees
  • Classics and classical languages: 4.2 degrees
  • Classical antiquity: 4.0 degrees
  • Astronomy: 3.6 degrees
  • European studies: 3.2 degrees
  • College special studies: 3.0 degrees
  • Russian, East European and Eurasian studies: 2.3 degrees

Fifteen Kansas University degree programs award 10 or fewer bachelor’s degrees each year, and could be the target of state review.

But that doesn’t mean the programs don’t contribute in other ways, KU officials say.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called on Missouri’s higher education institutions in that state to justify the existence of degree programs that graduate smaller numbers of students, the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune reported.

And, in Kansas, Gov.-Elect Sam Brownback recently said in an interview that perhaps Kansas should look at similar programs. After a Journal-World request for information, KU provided a list of its 15 programs that have averaged 10 or fewer bachelor’s degrees awarded over the past five years.

The list includes some bedrocks of a traditional liberal arts curriculum — such as classics — and a few other programs, such as physics, dance and Slavic languages and literatures.

Danny Anderson, dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that many of the programs provide a variety of other benefits to the university and the state.

And five of the 15 — college special studies, European studies, humanities, engineering physics and Russian, East European and Eurasian studies — draw on existing faculty from multiple disciplines and don’t cost the university anything extra to operate.

College special studies, for example, isn’t really a program in and of itself, but allows students to create a specialized major with approval from the university.

When looking to make changes to how a program is structured, Anderson said the college has a process that includes self-studies and input from peer universities as well as administrative reviews.

“We’re always asking where do we need to be five to 10 years from now,” Anderson said. “If you had called 20 years ago, you may have been asking ‘Why does KU want to continue offering Chinese or Arabic?’ And those languages are very important today.”

Physics, for example, is one of the foundation sciences taught at a university, Anderson said, and it shows how a department can house several different degree programs. The department at KU is called physics and astronomy, and it houses three of the listed small degree programs — physics, astronomy and engineering physics.

KU officials said that many of the programs are technical and aren’t intended for everyone, but even the small number of graduates provide the state with skilled, trained workers that fill a need.

Some programs on the list, such as petroleum engineering, are experiencing a rebound from low enrollments, said Russell Ostermann, associate chairman of chemical and petroleum engineering.

Though its current average over five years has the program at under 10 bachelor’s degrees per year, it is on track to graduate 13 students this year, and has 22 juniors in good standing ready for next year.

Besides, it’s the only petroleum engineering program in the state, he said, and trains people for high-paying jobs; starting salaries can average more than $80,000, Ostermann said.

And its research, accomplished through programs such as KU’s Tertiary Oil Recovery Project, benefits Kansas business people, he said.

Engineering physics, too, has seen increased enrollment, where levels are at a 29-year high.

Comments

CreatureComforts 4 years, 4 months ago

Surprised Physics, German and Petro Engineering are actually so low...the others, not so surprised.

SnakeFist 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm surprised too. Maybe those programs need to do something to make themselves more appealing to more students (but without dumbing down the material).

absolutelyridiculous 4 years, 4 months ago

Yet another attempt to dumb down our kids. If KU were truly innovate, they'd listen to this guy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcD...

Other state universities are doing a much better job effective shifting to the response this this shifting paradigm, such as FHSU. That little university out there in Western Kansas. But then the high brows at KU don't see anything past Manhattan.

Best of luck KU.

Katherine Greene 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the great video link. Very well done.

guesswho 4 years, 4 months ago

These programs do contribute across the board and help the basis of other programs; getting rid of that program will seriously hurt other programs throughout the university. For example, physics may not be a top major, but the intro curriculum is critical to many other degree programs.

absolutelyridiculous 4 years, 4 months ago

Pretty limiting for young people don't you think? Why shouldn't a fine arts student have physics? Geez, if Leonardo da Vinci were alive today he'd probably work at Kwik Shop.

SnakeFist 4 years, 4 months ago

"And five of the 15...draw on existing faculty from multiple disciplines and don’t cost the university anything extra to operate."

That's only true if the classes for those five majors are cross-listed with the instructors' departments. For example, if a history instructor teaches a class that is only applicable to a degree in (or only of interest to those seeking a degree in) East European Studies, then he is teaching one less class (or at least one less class of broader interest) in history - which means an additional instructor must be hired (or given overload pay) to teach that class in history.

lawrencian 4 years, 4 months ago

Most classes are cross-listed in many different departments...

smhend 4 years, 4 months ago

Fantastic link, thank you. Students should have much more academic freedom in designing their own degrees, responsibly...not less freedom.

I graduated from KU with a B.G.S. degree in 1979. The B.G.S. was a newer degree at the time, and was much poo-pooed, and scorned by the academic establishment, because it did not pigeon hole students into taking a narrow range of courses as was typical of most degreed programs. Traditionally, with most degreed programs, once you fulfill the unversity and college course requirements, students are left with little room for electives to take totally outside their major(s). In my unusual case, I took at least one course in every department it seems...I ate off of the entire menu. Even though my degree is a science degree, I took for example 600 level courses in Russian history, Greek mythology, religion, logic, French literature, etc. That kind of self directed academic freedom was and is still very rare. Nothing of real innovation and progress ever comes from being a great thinker inside the box. Thirty years later I am a much more creative scientist for knowing the myths of Theseus and Lida.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 4 months ago

Brownback claims he is all about jobs.

What you really should do is look at KU's most "popular" degree programs and see how many of those people get jobs out of college, what field they get jobs in, and what the average pay is. You should also see how many continue their education with graduate work, law school, med school, etc.

Then compare the same data to these "unpopular" degrees. I wonder how many of these "unpopular" degree holders go straight from college to their parents' basement in comparison to, say, graduates with a Political Science degree.

CreatureComforts 4 years, 4 months ago

Political Science is largely a jumping block for law school though. I am curious what % of people with a BA in Poli Sci end up in law school.

Lacy Mohler 4 years, 4 months ago

smhend--My son has 2 BGS degrees from KU--sorry a BGS degree with an additional major. Let's face it he avoided a lab science and foreign language by doing this--but he did end up taking at least an additional twelve hours from each of his major areas. So he plotted a little different course than you, but that is why it is a good degree. He went on and got a master's degree elsewhere.

Physics, engineering physics and petroleum engineering should not go. They have to offer physics classes anyway and engineering physics and petroleum engineering probably overlaps with other engineering degrees or geology.

Lacy Mohler 4 years, 4 months ago

Good point Bob_Keeshan. Also the science degrees add to what has become an important university stastic: average starting salary upon graduation. At technical/engineering universities that can be $60,000/year.

malyksmom 4 years, 4 months ago

I am a humanities major at KU and wouldn't have it any other way. The university should not get rid of these options for students just because there are fewer students that take advantage of them. If I had not went with humanities, I would have majored in Accounting (a degree MANY KU students get) and would have ended up hating my job and regretting that important decision.

finance 4 years, 4 months ago

You should have taken another grammar class. "If I had not 'went' with humanities" should read "if I had not 'gone' with humanities."

I support your case strongly, but you should not use bad grammar to secure a point others will attack from a less friendly perspective.

tolawdjk 4 years, 4 months ago

I think when I was in school, we had 3 maybe 4 Pet. E's along with the 40+ of us Chem. E's. I think 90% of our class load was the same...thermo, fluids, lab, design, control. Only when they were focusing on engineering electives did the difference rise, and then where a "Chem" might have some choice, it just ment that the Pets had to take specific classes. And those specifics were taught by the same amazing professors we all took classes from...Green and Wilhite.

And, at that time, the oil industry in Kansas was dying. Without the tertiary oil program, and the research it put into extraction from wells in KS....wells that had be pumped of all the easy oil they could get, and were only used because they were already dug...I think the petrochem industry in KS wouldn't be around today to potentially benefit from the advances in horizontal drilling and shale fracking. I don't know exactly where they are spending thier research money today, but I can bet it has some part in the advances in what were previously unprofitable shale formations.

The Bakken and Three Forks formations have shown there is still oil to be found and drilled in the US, and it programs like the one at KU that will train the engineers in how to effectively and cleanly go in and get it.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

The majors in question get smaller numbers because they are especially demanding. But nonetheless, it's valuable for the state of Kansas to have some experts--even a limited number--in the fields in question. All the faculty who teach the courses for those majors also teach more basic courses that fulfill requirements for large numbers of students. So there isn't any "waste" here. If the state auditors are looking for "waste," they might look at how much the athletic program gets for free. Or the cost of subsidizing students who blow off their classes, drop courses, take 5+ years to graduate, or don't graduate at all. If all students completed the courses they signed up for, and graduated on schedule in four years, it would cost the state less in subsidies to the universities.

Curtis Lange 4 years, 4 months ago

After an experience I had with the KU German Dept a couple summers ago, I'm not surprised they're a bottom feeder. I had a much more enjoyable experience with German courses at JCCC versus KU.

Armen Kurdian 4 years, 4 months ago

Granted, I'm speaking from a class I took 20 years ago, but I remember from my experience taking physics that the quality of the physics classes wasn't the best. Physics III was damned near impossible, and I didn't really learn that much because it was poorly taught. The physics department (at least then) ranked near the very bottom of other schools w/physics departments.

Don't get rid of the department, but eliminating the actual degree as an option is not something I think would hurt the university. Think of it like GM divesting itself of unprofitable divisions.

Armen Kurdian 4 years, 4 months ago

Granted, I'm speaking from a class I took 20 years ago, but I remember from my experience taking physics that the quality of the physics classes wasn't the best. Physics III was damned near impossible, and I didn't really learn that much because it was poorly taught. The physics department (at least then) ranked near the very bottom of other schools w/physics departments.

Don't get rid of the department, but eliminating the actual degree as an option is not something I think would hurt the university. Think of it like GM divesting itself of unprofitable divisions.

Grump 4 years, 4 months ago

Lets change KU into Douglas County Community College. It will have classes in remedial math, beginning hoof-cleaning and welding.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 4 months ago

Bob_keeshan has a good point. Which grads actually have job placement? Physics may have low volume, but their placement rate is probably close to 100%. Law grads are having a hard time this year. Education grads are not finding positions, either.

We could cut back a school of architecture either at KU or K State. It's unusual to have two scools of architecture in one state. How about sending education degrees to smaller schools? And, my personal favorite, charge KU Sports for the use of the university's name.

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