The curriculum offered at Carroll College will see some changes this fall as the administration shifts its priorities to meet the changing demand.
The changes will generally reduce the focus on the liberal arts in favor of more high-demand programs like nursing and social work. According to President John Cech, the French and physics majors have been recommended for future elimination.
"We will, however, continue to provide courses in both areas to support other academic majors and the core curriculum," Cech said.
These decisions came from a series of meetings on the college's Realign, Reinvest & Reimagine plan, which aims to help meet shortfalls by making "realistic" budget reductions. Cech said that since December, the administration has held a series of internal listening sessions including three open forums and multiple faculty, department, student and individual meetings.
"In all, over 200 people participated," Cech said. "As a result of the world pandemic, we made numerous strategic decisions including some tough choices. We were proactive having initiated this process in June of 2020 and finalized it late December before our Board of Trustees reviewed and voted to endorse the RRR plan in February 2021."
According to Cech, due to the proactive nature of the plan, optimism is building for the fall semester. The number of incoming freshmen who have already paid a deposit for the fall semester is about 35% ahead of what it was this time last year, he said. Additionally, the first cohort of the new Accelerated Nursing Program, scheduled to begin in May, has 19 students enrolled with only a single seat remaining. Cech also reported interest in the new Master of Social Work program is very high. Additionally, the college has enrolled 21 students into its new Certificate of Healthcare Leadership program, which is developed in partnership with St. Peter's Health.
He said this shows that interest in Carroll is shifting more into health care and social programs, as opposed to classical liberal arts. This does come with cuts from the liberal arts departments. Cech said the executive summary shows a total workforce reduction of approximately 3.68 positions.
"The position reduction included a combination of retirements, current vacant positions and elimination of some academic and staff positions," Cech said. "We also added several positions to support both our new Master of Social Work degree, scheduled to begin in the fall, and our Accelerated Nursing program, as well as positions related to enrollment, institutional research and campus safety and security."
Cech said the plan has resulted in strategic decisions ensuring a balanced budget for the next year and developing the foundation for Carroll College's growth for the next several years. The RRR plan also resulted in an administrative restructure to incorporate a "one stop shop model" of critical functions related to students under a single vice president, said Cech. These functions include enrollment, financial aid, marketing, student affairs, student support and campus ministry.
The plan also calls for the future addition of "high demand co-curricular activities" and identifies ideas that are in the early stages of planning such as junior varsity sports, marching band, e-sports programs and future living-learning communities on campus.
However, Cech said he doesn't want to diminish the overall importance of the liberal arts.
"Carroll College will continue to be a leader in providing a quality liberal arts education," Cech said. "We will not take action to diminish the importance and centrality of the liberal arts in our curriculum. The decision to reduce French as a major to a support curriculum, including two years of instruction, does not reduce Carroll's commitment to our continued emphasis on the liberal arts. A strong liberal arts curriculum is in the foundation for every program offered at Carroll College."
Cech drew attention to the college's upcoming annual Student Undergraduate Research Festival, which includes over 110 projects, many in the liberal arts fields. Cech also noted the recent creation of both a major and minor program in Catholic Studies and the college's partnership with Exeter College of the University of Oxford to enable students to pursue and expand liberal arts opportunities.
"I appreciate the feedback from all of Carroll's constituents regard the RR plan and look forward to working with the faculty, staff, students and the community to build a strong college to meet the education needs of the future," he said.