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Board of Governors discontinues 46 degree programs across UNC system

Thursday morning, the Board of Governors educational planning committee voted to discontinue 46 degree programs across the UNC-System, including one at UNC-Chapel Hill: human biology. Some of the programs will be reformatted as concentrations or consolidated into other majors. The entire Board voted Friday to adopt the recommendations voted on by the committee Thursday.

Other schools saw more programs discontinued than UNC-CH. East Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro saw eight programs discontinued each.

Junius Gonzales, senior vice president for academic affairs for the UNC-System, led the review of program productivity, which refers to the number of degrees granted in programs annually.

Gonzales said the process was inexact and that it was essential to listen to the thoughts of campus-level officials. He said the frequency of education programs being classified as low productivity due to few majors was an example of a situation where the processes of the UNC system and the interests of the state did not always align.

"This is an art, not a science," he said.

Stacey Franklin Jones, the chancellor of Elizabeth City State University, said she was satisfied with the process. ECSU has previously faced significant scrutiny from the Board of Governors and state legislature.

“Part of what Dr. Gonzales said was that it’s an imperfect process,” Jones said.

Jones said that ECSU's responsibility to respond to regional needs made the maintenance of some low-productivity programs essential.

“(It was) very encouraging — just that acknowledgement that it's an art, not a science,” she said.

During the committee meeting, Ron Mitchelson, the provost of ECU, said campuses have good processes to discontinue unproductive majors and use their funds elsewhere but that the budget climate presents challenges for schools that try to do this.

“Reallocating is a bit difficult in this environment because every time we make a pool to reallocate, it’s a budget cut,” Mitchelson said.

Warwick Arden, the provost of N.C. State University, which will see four programs discontinued, said some programs that don't give out a large quantity of degrees are still valuable, including the women and gender studies and Africana studies programs at the school, both of which will be discontinued and consolidated into less specific programs.

“While they’re not popular majors at N.C. State, they produce huge quantities of credit hours to non-majors,” Arden said.

Board member Steven Long, who is the vice chairman of the academic planning committee, expressed concern about the labels applied to the actions, saying that words like "discontinuation" could confuse the public.

“They think you’re eliminating a lot of the cost, but we’re really only eliminating a little bit of the cost,” Long said. “We’re really not discontinuing the whole program; we’re just scaling it back.”

Long said he didn't think the programs addressed by the report necessarily needed more scrutiny.

“We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.”

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the discontinuation of some degree programs, including in the headline. Some programs are being formally discontinued and consolidated, but will remain in existence. The article also included a list of programs to be discontinued, taken from a report presented to the Board of Governors, that presented potentially confusing program names. That list has been removed. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.

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