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Missouri S&T May Cut Majors In Addition To Furloughs And Layoffs

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri S&T will see layoffs and furloughs, and possibly elimination of some majors, because of economic pressures from the coronavirus.

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology is expected to announce furloughs and layoffs this week, similar to those at most colleges and universities, but the cuts could include degree programs.

S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani said financial challenges caused by the pandemic provide a chance for the university to improve the focus on its core, and that could include eliminating majors.

“This is the opportunity for us to see what programs we can integrate. What programs that have been, frankly, lingering for the last several years [that] we can potentially sunset,” Dehghani said during a recent virtual town hall meeting.

Dehghani did not give specifics when he made those comments. Missouri S&T grants about 2,500 diplomas every year, with 93% of them in science, technology, engineering and math. In the past six years, some majors have had just a handful of graduates, with an average of 15 in English, 11 in history and three in philosophy and religious studies.

“There might be a program or two that we outright will jettison in the interest of having a much stronger core,” Dehghani said. “We will invest in other areas of the campus. In fact, that is just as much on our minds as reducing costs and looking at efficiency of our university.”

Missouri S&T wouldn’t be the first public university in the state to cut degree programs as part of a response to the coronavirus economy. Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph announced in April it will phase out dozens of majors including English, history, philosophy, political science, economics, sociology and the arts.

“With understanding and support, Missouri Western can heal and emerge poised to transform and thrive,” President Matt Wilson said in a statement when the cuts were announced. “While we simply cannot be everything to everyone, focusing on our core strengths will enable us to grow stronger and thrive.”

Consolidating degree programs and removing duplication in the University of Missouri system — which includes campuses in Columbia, Rolla, Kansas City and St. Louis — has been under consideration for years. System President Mun Choi addressed the issue when state appropriations were cut in 2017.

“We have, across the four campuses, 400 majors. We duplicate majors from campus to campus. In some cases we may say if you want to study this particular discipline, you may want to consider this campus as opposed to coming to our campus here,” Choi said.

Dehghani is expected to announce Missouri S&T’s plans at a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.