Class schedule changes, cutting programs under consideration as cost-saving efforts


In the wake of declining enrollment, Baldwin Wallace is seeking ways to cut costs while maintaining the quality of its educational experience for their students.
For Academic Affairs, this means finding a way to offer fewer sections.
Last Fall, Provost Steve Stahl proposed a number of solutions to help the university use its resources more efficiently. Some of these changes will be implemented beginning in Fall 2019 and others have been set aside as new solutions are being explored.
One of Stahl’s propositions from last Fall was for faculty to find ways to eliminate requirements from their majors so the school could offer fewer sections. Stahl said that “no progress” has been made on this idea and instead, conversations have shifted to finding ways to be more efficient in the daily schedule of the university. Currently, nearly three-quarters of BW’s day classes are offered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with very few departments utilizing 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 3 p.m. class times.
“We are very inefficient in terms of when classes are scheduled: many are offered between 10 and 2,” said Stahl. “That means we have classes in competition with each other, either for enrollment or for students to enroll in, and so we are going to come up with mechanisms to coerce scheduling to be more evenly throughout the day.”
Stahl is working with the faculty senate to determine ways to schedule more efficiently. Currently, the plan is to ensure that departments across campus utilize all available periods in the existing schedule. This means that more classes will be offered earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon.
Though one motivation to eliminate excess sections is budget, Stahl said he hopes the change will improve “the quality of life” for faculty members and allow them more time to interact with students outside of the classroom.
President Robert Helmer also said he hopes this change will improve the student experience.
“We have a lot [of classes] that are in that middle time frame. And for some students that’s good, but for other students it would be more helpful if there were courses offered early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Again, our focus is on what helps student learning, and if rearranging our class schedule helps with that, then we should consider that.”
The push to use all of the available class times in the schedule will begin to be implemented in Fall 2019, but will not be fully implemented until 2020. That year, the university will have to determine whether that change is enough or if the school should change to a different daily schedule.
While conversations are currently focused on efficiencies, Stahl said it is unlikely that these changes will be enough to avoid serious conversations about cutting majors. Though this is a possibility, it is not imminent: Stahl said that these decisions will be made through the regular program review process that each program undergoes every five years, and that these discussions “need to take a long time.”
A program would not be eliminated purely because of budgetary reasons as Stahl said it is important to keep low-enrolled majors that are important to the identity of the university.
“We need to evaluate it,” said Stahl. “It’s not just the economics aspects that you look at. It’s also cultural aspects.”
For his part, Helmer said that these decisions would need to be made whether BW was in a period of low enrollment or not; the university is continually adding new programs and cutting old ones in order to prepare students for the ever-evolving job market.
“If you look at the history of BW, there have been periods where enrollment has grown, there have been periods where enrollment has declined, then it grows, then it declines: even in the times that it was growing, we still did program review,” he said. “So, to me, program review is just part of being good stewards of the resources.”
Stahl said that these conversations will be ongoing, but the goal is for the university to serve the students in the best and most efficient way possible. Though this may involve cutting academic programs, he said BW remains dedicated to its mission.
“You want to find ways to maintain the breadth of programs such that we are truly a modern comprehensive college, but you can’t do everything,” said Stahl. “That balance is tough.”

New guidelines
Two of last semester’s suggested changes pertain to the number of credits a student needs to earn and the number of credentials a student can have active at one time. The minimum credits needed for graduation for the class of 2023 — next Fall’s incoming freshman — will drop from 124 to 120. And beginning next year, all students will be subject to new limitations on the number of academic programs they can have active at one time.
Under the new guidelines, students may have one major and one minor, one major and two minors, two majors and two minors, or two majors. In other words, students will not be allowed to have three majors or three minors active at one time.
In addition to these restrictions, students must also declare their first major by registration for their sophomore Spring semester and they cannot sign a major or minor after registering for their senior Fall term.
Currently, there are a large number of students who graduate from BW without completing one of the majors or minors they had signed, said Stahl. These changes are intended not only to help BW offer fewer sections, but also to encourage students to be efficient in their planning so they can graduate on time.
“What we’re really looking for is that college should be as close to a four-year experience as possible,” said Stahl. “We don’t want someone to get an extra major if its going to require them to stay longer.”
Both the timeline and the number of credentials will be subject to appeals, though Stahl said it is unlikely that the school would allow a student to carry more credentials than the guidelines specify.
In addition to these changes, students with two majors will be asked to determine a primary major so the school can better track students’ interests.
“[This] gives us better data on what students are interested in, and how their interests change over time,” said Stahl.