West Virginia University is continuing a trend of drastic changes to its academic program and structure. This time, however, it’s not just focused on consolidating colleges. It’s focused on elimination.
Per the university’s preliminary recommendations released on Friday, it suggests cutting 32 academic programs, 12 of which are undergraduate majors. The decision will place 169 faculty positions in jeopardy, or about 7% of its Morgantown campus cohort. It will also affect nearly 450 undergraduate and graduate students or less than 2% of its total enrollment.
The university’s drastic decisions come on the heels of a report last July that uncovered a $45 million budget deficit—which could grow to $70 million in the next five years. Its first response to this information was to combine the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences and the College of Education and Human Services in May 2021. It then merged the College of the Creative Arts and Reed College of Media in June of this year.
The budget gap and its ensuing changes are primarily driven by declining enrollment, a shocking misfortune for the state’s only R1 university.
“While we view these preliminary recommendations for reductions and discontinuations as necessary, we are keenly aware of the people they will affect,” University President E. Gordon Gee said in a news release. “We do not take that lightly. These faculty are our colleagues, our neighbors and our friends. These decisions are difficult to make.”
Recommended for the chopping block was the entire Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, which houses bachelor’s programs in Chinese Studies, French, German Studies, Russian Studies and Spanish. The undergraduate and graduate programs for Landscape Architecture and several programs at both levels in music could also face the axe. In addition, the College of Law and a program in its pharmacy school were asked to reduce course offerings.
As President Gee navigated the university’s next difficult string of cuts and consolidations, last week he announced his decision to step down from the presidency in the summer of 2025.