Consolidating unproductive majors was based on faulty numbers

Jillian Bliss

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently decided to eliminate and consolidate degree programs based on low graduation rates, but not all statistics correctly reflected the amount of students graduating from the programs.

The board’s original report of low-producing majors listed zero students graduating with bachelor’s degrees from the Mexican American Ethnic Studies program during the past five years.

Richard Flores, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the program graduated at least 40 students within the past two years. He said the board’s erroneous results were caused by a mistake in the individual course code number given to each degree. He said UT administrative officials presented the correct code to the board, and the Mexican American Ethnic Studies major is no longer required to consolidate.

Members of the board directed UT in September to eliminate or consolidate bachelor’s degrees producing fewer than 25 graduates over a five-year period. The Department of Classics’ Greek major faces elimination by the board, and six other majors were approved to consolidate into new departmental programs. Flores said similar degrees will consolidate into other programs suggested by department heads. The classics department’s Latin major and five other liberal arts majors were granted a two-year extension to prove their worth to the board.

Flores said the board’s decisions are misleading because students who earn more than one degree do not count toward the final graduate numbers.

“It’s not only a coordinating board problem, it’s a UT problem,” he said. “We don’t have a way to count double majors. I was on the phone with them all day and they understand this.”

Flores said UT administration plans to develop a system that counts students with more than one degree as graduates of both programs, which will help the majors prove their reason for existence. He spoke at a liberal arts forum Thursday evening about the board’s decisions.

Some students, such as ancient history and classical civilizations senior Konrad Sliwowski, said they feel the reasoning for degree elimination is senseless.

“These decisions are coming from the coordinating board because of the funding [the state gives] us,” Sliwowski said. “They decide these kind of things and in actuality the rest of the school’s funding comes from tuition and grants, which don’t have a voice in what happens.”

Sliwowski said more emphasis should be put on the importance of Latin and Greek language courses to other majors.

Stephen White, classics department chair, said during the forum that members of his department are looking into consolidating the five degrees that utilize Latin and Greek courses to keep these programs alive, but have not reached a decision.

“It would be like one major with a concentration, a focus, a track,” White said.