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Faculty, campus community will review plan during a 20 University-day comment period
Ashland, OR – February 6, 2014: Southern Oregon University has released a provisional (draft) plan that would eliminate a number of low-enrolled academic programs in order to cut costs. The provisional plan was preceded by three years of campus-wide work to keep costs as low as possible for students in the face of significant disinvestment by the state of Oregon.
Late last year the campus announced plans for “retrenchment,” a word used in the SOU faculty union contract when academic programs are eliminated or restructured.
The plan lays out three scenarios, from best to worst case, with a reduction range from between $3.3 million and $5 million depending on variables such as level of state funding and enrollment that are unknown at this time. The plan also includes a fourth scenario with programs that could be considered for elimination only if a very worst situation emerged, requiring $7 million in reductions. The State Board of Higher Education required that such an extreme scenario be included in the plan. “However, if the very worst scenario occurred,” says SOU President Mary Cullinan, “we would not compromise the mission of SOU with such draconian cuts only in academic areas. We would have broad conversations across campus before we would cut that deeply into academics.”
Funding for Oregon’s public universities remains far behind the levels seen in the past. In 1999, for example, SOU received a state allocation $13 million higher than in 2013 despite an increase of nearly a thousand students since then. Extensive planning initiatives used to determine cost reductions have included sophisticated data gathering, analysis of national models, implementation of best practices in the curriculum, data-driven decision-making, and reorganization of key areas and offices. Faculty, staff, students, and members of the external community have provided feedback on these initiatives.
In order to have the least impact on students as possible, proposed cuts focus on programs with low enrollment and low numbers of graduates.
Cullinan stressed that “All students who are in declared majors by March 15, 2014, will be able to complete their SOU degrees.”
From the day the provisional retrenchment plan is released, according to the faculty union contract, the campus has a 20 University-day period in which to comment on the cuts. The provisional plan will be discussed widely by constituencies on and off campus. Then the final plan will be published. Implementation will occur over three years.
“Just as we’ve seen with many organizations, long-term successful enterprises recalibrate when they need to,” said Cullinan. “We have a great institution here that means a lot to our region and to the state. We’re meeting our challenges head on, for our students now and in the future.”
“I’m grateful for the collaborative campus process that enabled us to develop a strong financial plan for SOU,” said Cullinan. “While this is a necessary action, it is not an easy one. We will lose some of our valued faculty colleagues, each of whom has been an important part of SOU.”
To read SOU’s provisional plan, go to http://stateoftheuniversity.sou.edu/
About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. Visit sou.edu.