Valparaiso University Considers Cutting 28 Programs Amidst Declining Enrollment


Valparaiso University, a private nonprofit institution in Indiana, is contemplating discontinuing up to 28 programs as part of an effort to streamline its academic offerings. The university plans to announce which degrees are on the chopping block by the beginning of the fall 2024 semester.

(Photo : PEXELS / Pixabay)

Evaluating Academic Offerings

According to a memo from Eric Johnson, Valparaiso’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, the institution has determined that it offers an excessive number of majors, minors, and graduate degrees relative to its student body and faculty size. The review process encompasses 18 undergraduate programs, which currently serve around 3% of the university’s student population.

Final decisions regarding the elimination of programs are expected to be made by the commencement of the fall 2024 semester. However, affected students will be provided with the opportunity to complete their degrees before the affected programs are phased out, likely after the spring 2027 semester.

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Adapting to Changing Demographics

Valparaiso University initiated a comprehensive operational review in 2021, spanning five years. This evaluation involves employee interviews, campuswide surveys, and an analysis of enrollment data. The university cites the necessity to adapt to declining enrollment and a diminishing pool of traditional college-aged students as primary factors driving the decision to reassess its academic offerings.

Like many institutions across the higher education landscape, Valparaiso is bracing for an anticipated decline in high school graduates, a trend stemming from a decrease in birth rates during the Great Recession era. Particularly vulnerable are colleges heavily reliant on tuition revenue and those situated in the Northeast and Midwest regions, as highlighted by Valparaiso's observations in 2022.

Valparaiso University has already experienced a decline in enrollment, with only 2,958 students enrolled in fall 2022, marking a 27.5% decrease from the figure of 4,078 a decade earlier, as per federal data.

Over the next five months, Valparaiso will deliberate on potentially discontinuing 18 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs across various disciplines such as theology, public health, international relations, and cybersecurity. While the university anticipates a "limited reduction" in faculty positions to coincide with these program cuts, specific numbers have not been disclosed.

Johnson emphasized that not all programs under review are guaranteed to be eliminated, and even in cases where discontinuation occurs, relevant courses may still be offered. Additionally, Valparaiso is exploring the possibility of launching new programs to attract students, including a master’s in social work scheduled to commence in the upcoming fall term. Further degree offerings may be introduced based on market demands, Johnson noted.

As part of its strategic planning efforts, Valparaiso University aims to bolster net tuition revenue by 10% per student and is actively pursuing designation as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI). According to federal data, 10% of Valparaiso’s undergraduate students identified as Hispanic or Latino in fall 2022, a demographic trend the university seeks to further cultivate.

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