EKU takes first step towards program cuts

RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ)- Eastern Kentucky University took its first step Thursday towards cutting programs to close a $25,000,000 deficit.

The University’s Council on Academic Affairs voted to recommend eliminating some nursing, education, and math programs among several others.

The meeting had to be moved to a bigger room because there was so much interest. Several of the council members say they feel just like students, alumni, and faculty. They don’t want to make cuts, but it’s something they say they have to do.

Anna Sullinger teaches Family Consumer Science at Beaumont Middle school in Lexington.

“It’s the best feeling in the world when a student comes up to you and says, ‘Thank you so much for making me successful,'” Sullinger said.

She believes she’s a better teacher because of the degree she got from EKU so she was disappointed to hear the Council voted to suspend the bachelor’s degree in that same program.

“It’s just so emotional for us because we know how important it is for us to teach these students and nationally and statewide we have a teacher shortage,” Sullinger said.

She says without the program at EKU, there will only be two left in state with 32,000 students in a family consumer science class right now and 10% of teachers ready to retire.

With several programs and faculty under threat, the Council voted to suspend all the programs up for consideration except some theater and economics programs to cheers from the audience.

Provost Deborah Whitehouse reminded the council its work isn’t based on budget, but is part of a consistent review of programs based on enrollment and graduation rates. Still, at the end of the meeting, she addressed the budget’s burden.

“I wish we could keep everything that we have, but we’re facing massive budget cuts,” Whitehouse told the crowd.

Matthew Winslow and the faculty senate he chairs are next to vote. He says the huge deficit isn’t the University’s fault.

EKU had to make similar cuts in 2016. Since then there have only been more state budget cuts and increased pension costs.

“The things that we’re going to lose are painful and there’s no way around that and so we can make it through this cut. I don’t know what will happen if we have to make another cut like this,” Winslow said.

The Faculty Senate will take a similar vote on Monday. Then the Board of Regents will make a final decision, taking into consideration the recommendations of both bodies.

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