- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A University of New Orleans faculty group has released a scorecard evaluation of the school’s 80 degree programs.

The New Orleans Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/1tNWzhH) the programs are rated on such criteria as student demand, graduation rate, tuition revenue and whether the program area is tied to UNO’s definition of its mission.

Programs that received top marks include undergraduate programs in biological sciences, psychology, mechanical engineering, and hotel, restaurant and tourism administration.

Among those at the bottom are undergraduate offerings in secondary teaching and early childhood education as well as a master’s degree in engineering management and financial economics.

The 25-member group includes deans of UNO’s five academic colleges and library, as well as faculty leaders. It now turns to recommendations on which programs best fit with the university’s long-term direction.

The review includes examining a program’s relevance and significance to UNO’s focus as an urban research institution as well as the level of research conducted by each department.

The group, known as the Faculty Governance Committee, plans to use the data to help determine whether programs should get additional funding, be restructured or eliminated.

Matthew Tarr, a professor who chairs the committee, said the rankings are just one piece of the overall analysis. The committee plans to submit its recommendations to university President Peter Fos by Nov. 7, he said.

Tarr said the evaluation methodology includes ideas borrowed from other schools that have restructured, including the University of Alaska at Anchorage and Indiana State University.

“Our charge is much broader than cutting programs. Our charge is to evaluate the current set of programs and to make recommendations on what programs will best serve the university and its constituents into the future,” he said.

Tarr and Pamela Jenkins, a sociology professor and president of the Faculty Senate, cautioned against reading too much into the list.

Tarr said it is “not really a judgment based” on where a program falls in the ranking but “an indication based on the six criteria on how the program has performed in the past and our estimate on how it will perform in the future.”

Some programs near the bottom are those that typically suffer from low enrollment, he acknowledged, but he stressed that such a factor is not necessarily a death sentence for the programs. He also said it’s “much harder to connect liberal arts majors to a specific job,” which can make those programs somewhat harder to evaluate.

Fos has said previously that layoffs are likely to follow program reductions.

The university has struggled with its community identity for decades, and in recent years with deep cuts in state spending. Enrollment has fallen sharply over the past decade.

Fos has cut more than 110 positions - the school had about 1,850 full- and part-time staff as of last fall - since becoming president in January 2012.

Faculty and students will know whether programs are being cut by the spring semester, Fos said. Any changes would take effect during the spring 2016 semester.

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