ARKADELPHIA — Trustees on Thursday approved academic restructuring at Henderson State University, but not before receiving written comments from alumni and others who opposed the elimination of some 25 academic degree programs.
Henderson State Chancellor Chuck Ambrose in February began calling for deep cuts and major changes to address a budget shortfall, depleted savings and what he has called a “not sustainable” percentage of student accounts going unpaid.
Ambrose on May 2 in a letter to the Arkadelphia campus outlined his proposal to phase out degree programs — including in English, mathematics and biology — and eliminate 88 faculty positions.
The cuts are to result in salary savings of $2.55 million in fiscal year 2023 and an additional $2.79 million in fiscal year 2024, according to the Arkansas State University System, which officially added Henderson State as its seventh member institution in February of last year.
The ASU System Board of Trustees unanimously approved the academic restructuring.
A total of eight speakers — each given three minutes to address the board — shared their opinions on the restructuring during the online meeting this past Thursday, but others submitted written comments released to the Democrat-Gazette under the state’s public disclosure law.
Under Chancellor Ambrose’s plan no longer would students who plan to attend medical school, veterinary school (like my daughter), dental school, pharmacy or law school have a place at the University… majors that are most common for those students would no longer exist,” stated a comment submitted by Jennifer Billingsley, identified in the message as a “concerned parent” of a Henderson State student.
Ambrose’s plan states that while degree programs are being phased out, academic disciplines included in those programs are to “continue to be incorporated through the general education and interdisciplinary studies curriculum to enhance outcomes for all students.”
Jeff Hankins, a spokesperson for the ASU System, in an email on Tuesday said the university’s curriculum, with what are to be known as “meta-majors,” will “support all of these pre-professional programs.”
“The Meta-Majors will broaden career pathways and competencies,” Hankins said. “For example, students will utilize math, biology and chemistry to obtain a degree in population health management that can prepare more students to go directly into the workforce or go on to graduate or medical school.”
Ambrose’s proposal described how the approximately 40 remaining degree programs — of which about 28 are undergraduate programs — are being organized into four “meta-majors”: Health, Education, and Social Sustainability; Applied Professional Science and Technology; Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Arts and Humanities.
In other comments to trustees, Charles Still, who identified himself as a current Henderson State student, wrote to “plead and encourage you to vote no on getting rid of Henderson’s Criminal Justice Degree.”
“It is a degree plan that is integral to the furthering of everyone studying law enforcement and is a key stepping stone for those looking to further their education into law schools, and where else than Arkadelphia, and more importantly, where else than Henderson to do just that?” Still wrote.