TAMPA — In tight financial times, Florida universities have been told to comb degree programs to figure out which ones work, which ones need help and which ones need to go.
The University of South Florida has taken it a step further, targeting expendable degrees before someone at the state level does it for them.
On Thursday, the school's Board of Trustees identified 17 degrees that will likely go away, 15 from the now-defunct USF Polytechnic in Lakeland. The other two were a doctorate in biology to be replaced by two new programs, and a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies from USF's Honors College.
Over the past four to five years, USF provost Ralph Wilcox said, USF has eliminated 22 degrees, while also adding new ones.
USF has built on a set of criteria issued by the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, to judge whether a degree program is productive. The university increased the state's criteria to hold itself to even stricter standards.
For example: Where the Board of Governors sets the threshold for a productive bachelor's program as awarding an average of six degrees a year, USF raised its own standards to 12. Once those programs were identified, faculty started looking at the details. Being small didn't automatically mean a program would go.
They also looked at whether the programs were popular. Did they match the school's long-term goals? Were they able to be split, combined, redesigned? Were they getting students jobs after graduation?
The proposed cuts will be presented to USF's full Board of Trustees for a vote in June, then will head to the state for approval. No student gets yanked from a terminated program. USF is required to devise a plan to gradually teach students out.
The school will use the criteria annually to keep tabs on degrees.
"This will be a continuing process in the same way we look to update our degree array to ensure that our students are getting cutting-edge, leading-edge opportunities," said Wilcox. "We recognize that some degree programs have had their time and don't necessarily bring the relevance to the marketplace."