Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008 | 2:09 a.m.
Over the past several years, university and college officials in Nevada have enthusiastically created dozens of new degree programs from biomedical engineering to public affairs to try to attract students and offer them a cutting-edge education.
At the same time, college officials have been less than enthusiastic about cutting programs that have failed to live up to expectations and are taking time and money away from other programs that could use the help.
As Charlotte Hsu reported in Saturday’s Las Vegas Sun, UNLV last cut a program in 1998, but since then has added 61 new programs.
The problem is that officials make estimates of the number of students they expect would be interested in earning a degree in a new program, and the projections are often far off the mark.
Take, for example, three programs in the Las Vegas Valley:
• Officials at the College of Southern Nevada expected 254 students in the third year of a dental hygiene program yet had only 31 students enroll.
• The management program at Nevada State College expected to have 40 students in its third year but had only two.
• At UNLV, the public affairs program was supposed to have 40 students in its third year but attracted only 14.
Some of the other programs that have not met expectations, such as biomedical engineering, are specialized and may not attract large numbers of students. Officials may be a little slow to cut such programs because they are deemed important and can increase a university’s prestige.
University officials should be commended for being ambitious. Colleges should be continually striving to provide new and innovative programs, but at some point university officials have to make some difficult decisions. Programs that are a drain on the university’s overall mission and its budget deserve scrutiny. If programs aren’t drawing students and serving a vital academic purpose, they should be eliminated.