By Isabel Corona
In the hopes of improving the education and services that students are provided, the State Board of Education (SBOE) implemented program prioritization at all four-year universities in Idaho last fall.
Program prioritization is an exploration of programs and course offerings to help align universities with their strategic plans and missions.
Richard Klautsch, chair of the Theatre Arts Department, said some of the benefits of this program include finding and creating efficiencies in day-to-day operations and curriculum by looking at every single aspect of the university, from the library to the Communication Department.
“The program overall forces us to take a real hard, close look at what we do as a department and to consider where we might be able to do things better,” Klautsch said.
SBOE decided to implement program prioritization after several months of discussion on how to improve Idaho’s institutions of higher learning. After listening to a presentation by Robert C. Dickeson about the program he devised in his book, “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services,” SBOE decided program prioritization was the best way to go.
Richard Westerberg, the chair of Instruction Research and Student Affairs for SBOE added, “The board looked at that and said ‘Now’s the time. Rather than trying to do it in pieces, why don’t we look at all programs, in kind of a holistic approach.’”
Each university in the state designed and implemented their own plan for program prioritization, with the results of the program due by the end of June.
Boise State divided the process into three “bites.”
The first bite, which has been completed, required each department to look at its individual emphases and minors.
The second and third bites will examine individual degrees and the entire department respectively.
Program prioritization aims to discover which university programs can use additional funds and attention in order to better serve the university and students.
“I have every confidence that the decisions made through program prioritization will be made only for the goal of making things better for the university,” Klautsch said. “I don’t think a program that is already doing excellent work is going to be forced to change or to go away or anything like that simply because we want change for change’s sake.”
Although this is the desired outcome of the program, some faculty members at Boise State are worried about whether or not this will actually be the case.
LeAnn Turner, the chair of the Art Department, said she was concerned about the possible implications the program could have.
“None of us like the fact that there’s this bar. We could all potentially be performing well above the bar and this program as written says that something has to be in the lowest twenty percent.”
Turner did say that the university has said just because something falls below the bar doesn’t mean that it will automatically be cut.
Highlighting areas for improvement allows the university to allocate funds to programs that are used by students, but under-funded, while reducing or even cutting funding to those which are not being utilized.
“I think the whole value in this is to look at individual programs and make sure that they are aligning with the needs of the students and the institution,” Westerberg said.