Student Voice


May 23, 2024


University looks inward to prioritize programs

February 5, 2009

Across the UW-River Falls campus, programs are under self-review in light of UWRF’s strategic plan and in concurrence with a budget cut from the state of Wisconsin in July 2009.

UWRF will define its priorities and use solid information to make future decisions about how to use its resources, according to the strategic plan.

“This is a huge deal,” Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brad Caskey said. “[Through the prioritization] we will redefine the future of River Falls, impacting enrollment, marketing and the development of new curriculum.”

Program directors on the academic side and administrative side will sum up the importance of their program within six criteria listed on the self-study template.

The criteria differ slightly between the academic programs and the administrative programs. Loosely the criteria include: consistency with UWRF’s strategic plan and mission, vision and values, demand, quality, productivity, benchmarking with peers and crucial information not addressed by other criteria. Each response is limited to 250 words.

The self-studies are due March 13, but the process of assessment and prioritization is different for academic programs versus administrative programs.
Academic Process

The academic program prioritization process began two years ago and has about 120 programs involved, according to Caskey, who helped develop the rubric and data that the academic programs will use in the self study.

The self-studies will be first forwarded to their respective colleges where an initial review will take place. The Dean’s Council will list each program according to three different levels: enhance, maintain or maintain/monitor and reduce or eliminate.

Faculty Senate Chair David Rainville said that the Dean’s Council calls for 60 percent of the programs to be in the maintain or maintain/monitor level with 20 percent rising to the top and 20 percent falling below.

The percentages need to be approved by the Senate and is anticipated to be on the Senate’s Feb. 18 agenda.

Rainville said that apprehension in the midst of the prioritization process is to be expected.

“You can’t all be winners,” Rainville said. “I would hope that individuals would accept that their program is a drain on the University and accept what happens.”

Current students do not have to worry about their programs being shut down. It is more likely that the program will suspend admissions, Caskey said.

“Programs have come and gone before,” Caskey said. “[It’s about] becoming more lean and focused; you can’t be everything and be distinct.”

Administrative Process

Lisa Wheeler, vice chancellor of administration and finance, is leading the administrative project team under which about 110 programs are under review.

The completed self-reviews will be reviewed initially by the Executive Cabinet which includes the provost, vice chancellor of administration and finance and the chancellor.

Wheeler said that the initial review is for their own information and clarification.

“We want to make sure nothing is wacky,” she said.

After the initial review, the self-studies will be submitted to review groups who will provide a rating and recommendations on the programs.

Library Director Valerie Malzacher heads up one of the two review groups and said that the recommendations are the heart of the self-reflection.

“[It’s about] what we can do to provide quality service more efficiently,” Malzacher said.

The ratings and recommendations make the rounds to the University cabinet and finally the Executive Cabinet. On June 1, the Executive Cabinet will share the decisions with directors and begin to incorporate them into planning.

Wheeler said that the University will do everything it can so employees can keep their jobs.

“Eighty-nine percent of the University’s budget [is spent] on people,” she said. “[They] are the guts of the University and the most valuable resource.”

Budget Cuts

Twenty years ago, the state of Wisconsin contributed 47 percent of UWRF’s budget. In 2008, it contributed 32 percent, with most of the decline in the last 10 years. The cost of tuition has risen 10 percent.

Scant funding from the state is becoming the norm. With a budget cut looming, the prioritization could not come at a better time.

“In a time of scarce resources we want to fund our priorities,” Interim Chancellor Connie Foster said.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported in January that 45 states are facing budget shortfalls in the current year or next year. Wisconsin’s budget shortfall is $5.4 billion.

“The question becomes what can we do and where,” Malzacher said. “If we don’t figure it out for ourselves someone else will do it for us.”