The Department of Graduate Studies in Education faces closure due to a lack of student enrollment, but the decision has been put on hold until next month to consider adding a doctoral program.
Dr. Donnie Snider, chair and dean of the college of education and human services, Dr. Bruce Scott, assistant professor of education, and Dr. Stephen Johnson, dean of the graduate school, have been working on a doctoral school proposal for months.
The proposal was presented to the Graduate Council in the monthly meeting which takes place every second Tuesday of the month.
“The decision has been delayed,” Johnson said. “Rather than close the master’s program, we’re considering leaving the department open for a new program. We want to consider the value of leaving the MED as an option.”
If the program proposal is denied, the closure of the graduate school will likely follow.
“Basically, we are victims of everybody’s success,” Scott said. “We’re not getting the number of applicants and students in those programs that we need to make it financially viable.”
Low admittance has made it difficult for the program to continue operating at a quality standard.
“Funding the program and having a quality program is the problem,” Scott said. “You really can’t have a quality program with only one or two students. You can’t build the kind of class discussions that you need or the interaction with the professor that you need to have a quality program.”
The long-existing program is has been at ACU for around 50 years and was transitioned to an online degree seven years.
“When I came in 2003, there were less than five in the superintendent program and less than 20 in the principal program,” Snider said. “Abilene is limited because if you take out Wiley and Abilene ISD, the surrounding districts are really small, so we couldn’t grow the program.”
After the transition, the program grew.
“At the time, we were early adopters,” Snider said. “Not many universities across the United States were offering a fully online masters in educational leadership administration and we grew. We grew from about 25 to over 230 in 37 states.”
As more universities adopted the idea of an online program at a lower cost, ACU’s program was quickly forgotten.
“Other universities over saturated the market,” Snider said. “There was so much demand and a lot of the online programs in Texas were taking over.”
Cost was a contributing factor in the decision to close the school as ACU could not lower prices to match other public universities and make profit.
“We’re not the only ones going through this,” Snider said. “A lot of universities across the state are closing their masters programs and living off their doctoral program.
As of now, graduate degree programs only exist within the four colleges at ACU. The Department of Graduate Studies in Education resides in the College of Education and Human Services.
“Any degree on campus has to have a home on campus and we’re that home,” Scott said. “We’ve been chosen as the host for the doctoral degree.”
In preparation for the possible closure of the program, the department stopped accepting students in the summer. If the proposal for a doctoral program is approved, the graduate program will remain open, though.
The Graduation Council will vote in October on whether to keep the program open or close it, which may not be a bad thing.
“A lot of times when you close a program people are going to be out of a job, but in this case, we’ve timed it so that’s not happening so it feels a little better and it’s not as hard,” Snider said.
Two professors teach in the department along with another who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses, but none face the risk of losing their jobs.
“Two professors have given verbal notice of retirement and the other will just go not teach graduate courses anymore,” Snider said. “It’s good timing that we can close the program out at the same time two professors are retiring.”
Johnson said he hopes to know the fate of the master’s and doctoral program by the beginning of next year.