Aviation among three programs to close at St. Cloud State University

Earlier this week, university president Earl H. Potter III announced his decision to close the bachelor degree programs in aviation and general biology and the masters degree program in geography.

In a letter to campus colleagues, Potter wrote:

“The programs included in this category are not sustainable in their current programmatic and organizational structure and/or do not have sufficient student demand and/or market need to justify additional investment. As a result, they have been identified for closure. We will continue to offer courses in these areas to facilitate the progress of the existing students toward graduation. We will however suspend any new admissions into these programs.”

The St. Cloud Times reports that the aviation program cut is “another blow to the viability of St. Cloud Regional Airport.”

Last year Delta Airlines canceled air service on the heels of major airport improvements. And the aviation program, according to the newspaper, accounts for 25 percent of airport activity.

An airline industry group has expressed interest in supporting the aviation program. Potter is in conversations with the group. Potter, as president, has the right to review his decision to close the program if an opportunity to support the program arises.

These academic program cuts are part of an effort to assess “the rigor and relevance” of the university’s programs, said provost and vice president for academic affairs Devinder Malhotra.

Malhotra said university officials are considering “what programs makes most sense for us to have, and what programs are sustainable, and in what ways can we re-organize the programmatic structure in itself so that it becomes more sustainable over the long haul from a resource standpoint.” Malhotra said the university began conversations to appraise programs three years ago.

This appraisal process is also taking place as the university goes through a massive reorganization effort. The university is facing an approximate $14 million deficit for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins next year in July.

The deficit stems in part from an uncertainty about state appropriations and in part to the fact that stimulus money–about $4.5 million to $5 million–that supported the university for the past two years will no longer be available.

Malhotra said university officials are reviewing all of the academic programs and the units that support them.

“So almost all of the programmatic and organizational activities of the university are under review to understand how we can become more focused, more responsive, and a more student-centered institution,” said Malhotra. “And in that context, it helps us also then to deal with budget issues.”

The university will continue to support several programs at their current levels, or “enhance” support, while it will suspend admission to other programs until those programs reorganize their curriculum to improve their marketability and cost-effectiveness.

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