The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University will phase out eight academic majors and nine minors over the next few years to reallocate resources into programs with higher demand, according to leaders at the private Catholic liberal arts schools.
The changes, approved by the boards of trustees at the end of February, were made after a two-year comprehensive review of programming that found a significant disparity among the 70-plus areas of study, with several majors having fewer than 10 students enrolled.
"We're needing to make some strategic decisions about aligning where we're putting resources," said Richard Ice, provost at CSB/SJU. "But every student who is currently at St. Ben's and St. John's will be able to complete those majors and minors. We have a teach-out plan."
Majors being phased out are ancient Mediterranean studies, gender studies and theater, although minors will remain in those programs. Specific concentrations within nutrition (dietetics) and music (composition, performance and liturgical music) will be also be eliminated though the core of those majors will remain. Language majors and minors being phased out are French studies, German studies, Latin and Japanese, though some courses in those languages will still be offered. Asian studies, Chinese, Greek, and peace studies programs will also be phased out.
When Ice started the programming review two years ago, he anticipated about 25 positions would need to be cut. Since then, about 20 positions have been eliminated through attrition. He says the program cuts will help get faculty numbers to a 12-1 student-faculty ratio — a ratio leaders think is sustainable, he said.
CSB/SJU has about 2,900 undergraduate students enrolled this year, a number that's fallen between 20% and 25% over the past 13 years, Ice said. School leaders have been conscientious about reducing faculty by not replacing some positions after faculty members have left or retired, but the attrition rate hasn't kept up with student decline.
Ice said he will meet with faculty in the next month to discuss plans for the next few years.
"Some of the staffing changes may happen as faculty members' term contracts end," he said. "I'm letting them know they probably will not be renewed."
The review process included committees researching student and market demand. Recommendations were voted on by the faculty assembly.
"This was not done as a top-down thing," Ice said. "For all of the majors that the board decided to cut, the faculty had voted to approve those cuts."
Ice said he met with student government during the process, and some students voiced disappointment that they weren't included on the review committees, which were made up of faculty and administrators.
"Students have made loud and clear their choices. They enroll in classes, they choose majors," Ice said. "And I have heard from some students who are excited about being in these programs that are high demand who sometimes have difficulty getting into classes they really want."
In recent years, CSB/SJU has added several new programs, including graduate nursing, exercise and health science, climate studies, data analytics, global health, narrative practice and neuroscience. The schools also plan to continue hiring faculty for high-demand programs such as economics, computer science, accounting and finance, and global business leadership, CSB/SJU President Brian Bruess said.
"We are proud to be the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked colleges in Minnesota for students getting jobs after graduation. This is our differentiator," Bruess said in a statement announcing the program cuts. "These changes will continue our tradition of providing quality education that meets the demands of our students and prepare them for meaningful careers."