In an age when STEM degrees are a hot topic and a factor in the funding of Florida public universities, Florida Gulf Coast University is keeping its degree offerings balanced.
At a November board of trustees meeting, which 36 suspended degree programs were in discussions to be discontinued, several trustees expressed concerns that FGCU was eliminating degree programs without offering new programs.
“At the same time we are growing and eliminating programs, we need to be looking at the community to see which programs we need to be adding,” trustee Russell Priddy said.
The BOT discussed review of academic degree programs in relation to the strategic plan of the Florida Board of Governors. The BOG strategic plan involves monitoring university academic planning, and reads “university goals are being set to increase the numbers of graduates with degrees in STEM fields.”
Trustee Robbie Roepstorff spoke about the responsibility that trustees have to the students of FGCU to provide programs that students need.
“I really think we need to move from the board of governors. We need to look at it up one side and down the other and see how it affects students,” Roepstorff said. “Students come first and foremost, and we need to stand behind that to the board of governors.”
With a push for more STEM programs and Areas of Strategic Emphasis – which include health and education programs – students may be afraid of humanities programs becoming neglected.
That is not the case, according to Cathy Albergo, director of Bower School of Music and the Arts.
“I’m not having problems with that,” Albergo said. “We can’t offer every degree that students want, but we are constantly in contact with students, talking about what they’re looking for.”
In fact, Albergo is currently working to create a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, which will be funded through the Southwest Florida Children’s Charities Hospital.
“This degree has been asked for by the community, asked for by students, faculty, everybody,” she said.
At the same time, Dean Richard Behr of the College of Engineering is working to propose a master’s degree in engineering. Behr said he does not think proposals for STEM degrees have a better chance of passing than proposals for non-STEM degrees.
“I think any new program proposal has to survive the same justification process,” Behr said. “STEM is getting a lot of attention these days, I think for good reason, but this University is taking a very balanced approach to launching new degrees.”
Trustees discontinue suspended programs
As students and professors prepared for finals this past December, the BOT took care of a little housekeeping.
The board voted unanimously to discontinue 36 out of 39 degree programs that were previously suspended and had not been accepting new students.
Provost Ronald Toll said that this discontinuance will have no affect on current program offerings because the programs had already been suspended — some from as early as 2000.
“No student or faculty member here were affected in anyway by the movement to discontinuance,” Toll said.
Most programs were discontinued because they had already been replaced with a higher degree level of the same subject, had been expanded into several more specific programs or had been renamed.
For example, Dean Jane McHaney of the College of Education recommended at a November BOT meeting that the bachelor of science degree in education be discontinued because FGCU students prefer to go for a doctorate in education instead.
“The way the public school system is structured with their pay scale, they do not necessarily receive a pay increase with the Ed.S., whereas they do with the Ed.D.,” McHaney said. “Absolutely do not bring it back.”
The bachelor of arts degree in music was removed because it had been developed into two separate degree programs for music education and music performance.
The computer science B.S. was renamed to software engineering.
Thirty-three other programs were removed because of similar reasons.
Three programs — the M.A. in environmental studies, nurse educator M.S.N. and primary healthcare nurse practitioner M.S.N. — were left on the suspended list so that the curriculum can be changed before students are enrolled in the program, and then the re-vamped programs can be offered in the future.
The difference between a suspended program and a discontinued program is that suspended programs can be brought back by the administration, but once a program is discontinued, the BOT must vote to have it put back in the university catalog.