UC cut hurting students

Forget about majoring in nursing at Humboldt State — the program is being phased out.

The University of California at Davis students can no longer get bachelor’s degrees in applied science, avian science or nature and culture.

The University of California at Santa Cruz has eliminated minors in computer technology, journalism and communication and rhetoric.

As California’s public universities look for efficiencies in the face of ongoing budget cuts, some long-standing fields of study are falling by the wayside.

Universities routinely evaluate their academic offerings as society changes, adding new programs the economy demands and dropping majors that stop drawing interest from students.

But the pace of that evolution is changing, university officials say, as campuses in California and other cash-strapped states respond to funding reductions by cutting majors at a faster clip and slowing down the rate at which they add new programs.

“Clearly some of it is cyclical, but the budget cuts are accelerating the process and forcing the campuses to make some tough decisions,” said Todd Greenspan, director of academic planning in the statewide president’s office of the University of California.

UC estimates that across the state, it has saved $155 million over the last three years by eliminating or consolidating programs.

Campuses are still creating new areas of study, but fewer than in the past, according to the state agency that reviews proposals for new degrees from California’s public colleges.

A report last month by the California Postsecondary Education Commission says that from 2009 to 2010, the number of graduate program proposals from UC dropped by 35 percent.

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UC’s five-year plan calls for developing 109 graduate programs, 42 undergraduate programs and five professional schools while closing 15 programs and withdrawing another 57 from the planning process.

Many of the graduate programs being developed are essentially private schools with the UC brand.

They receive no state funding and are paid for entirely by student tuition.

Berkeley and Davis have proposed self-supporting master’s degrees in accounting, while Riverside and San Diego want to create self-supporting degrees in engineering.

UCLA is talking about converting its entire business school to a private, self-supported model.

The state budget Gov. Jerry Brown signed cut $650 million from each public university system, or about 22 percent from UC and 24 percent from the California State University.

The funding cut caused UC Riverside to postpone opening a new medical school.

“The accrediting group in Washington, D.C., has said that in the absence of a state financial commitment to this medical school, we’re not going to give you preliminary accreditation,” said UC Riverside Chancellor Tim White.

“So our task now is to have the state of California provide the necessary resources for us to go back to the accrediting group and say we’ve got that problem solved.”

Budget constraints are also responsible for Humboldt State’s decision to eliminate nursing, said campus spokesman Paul Mann. It was the university’s most expensive program — with costs exceeding $1 million a year — and the university could no longer afford to hire qualified faculty, he said.

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