CHEYENNE – The Laramie County Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approved cutting several academic programs and suspending others from their course offerings during its meeting Wednesday night.
Several associate degrees, including accounting, psychology and several natural science programs, will be eliminated starting in the fall 2020 semester. Other options, including associate degrees in English, history and math, will be temporarily suspended. No employees will lose their jobs due to the cuts.
LCCC President Joe Schaffer said the decision was the result of several factors, including low program enrollments, low completion rates and the lack of some programs’ alignment with four-year degree pathways.
“You’re putting some of your best faculty in some of the most expensive classes with the fewest students,” Schaffer said.
The decision will result in 20 programs being cut permanently and 14 being suspended, though Schaffer noted many of those offerings are included within larger programs that will still be provided.
“While there seems to be a lot of these, the vast majority of the courses that comprise these programs are still going to exist,” Schaffer said.
“They’re just going to make a whole lot more sense when we sequence them within a narrower swath of the programs,” Schaffer said.
Some programs like natural sciences have several concentration areas, which Schaffer said can make decisions difficult for students.
“What we quickly realized is that having too many of those options not only created paralysis sometimes for students,” Schaffer said. “It actually disadvantaged their ability to navigate exploration and move forward.”
Students will still have the option to complete their courses before they are cut, and LCCC will be notifying inactive students whose programs will be cut in case they wish to return before the courses are phased out.
“We actually hope maybe we’ll get some reenrollments as a result of this,” Schaffer said.
Though associate degrees like English will be cut, Schaffer said students will still have the opportunity to follow an academic path in those fields.
“What’s important is your ability to access the completion of an English bachelor’s degree,” Schaffer said. “LCCC will always have a pathway for students who want to do that. ... In fact, I would argue we will now have a better pathway for students to achieve their English bachelor’s degree and go into a field that’s associated with English as a result of these.”
Over the past two years, LCCC faculty identified programs that did not align with four-year programs. They also considered which offerings lead to living-wage jobs.
“If we’re offering programs that lead to below life-sustaining wages, we’re actually making somebody pay for a pathway for the life of the living poor,” Schaffer said. “We have to have programs that help students access at least a life-sustaining career.”
Kari Brown-Herbst, LCCC Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, said faculty-led discussions allowed the college to decide which programs to put on hiatus.
“Hiatus truly is let’s put them aside for the moment. We are aware of conversations that are already happening among the faculty of, ‘We just want to change a few pieces, and then we think we can bring this one back,’” Brown-Herbst said. “We know we will entertain those conversations post-fall 2020.”
During the meeting, trustee Brenda Lyttle asked Brown-Herbst if the program cuts could hinder someone from attending the University of Wyoming to major in degrees like English.
In response, Brown-Herbst said faculty members collaborated with UW representatives to ensure the changes would not keep someone from being able to study in Laramie.
As a follow-up, trustee Wendy Soto asked about whether students could still carry credits from cut programs over to an out-of-state university after attending LCCC. In response, Schaffer said the current process allows students to develop an academic plan to get the credits they need at LCCC.
“Without an articulated pathway, we can’t guarantee unequivocally, but I can tell you that’s far better than putting them through our curriculum ... and say, ‘Well, looks like I’m going to have to retake these three classes.’ Which happens far more than we want to think,” Schaffer said. “The way we’ve designed these pathways, it allows for us to have those interactions (earlier in the process).”
In order for the fully eliminated programs to be brought back, they will have to go through the entire credentialing process with the state’s Community College Commission.
The suspended programs can be brought back through a board vote, though Schaffer said there was no timeline for when any programs might be removed from their hiatus status.