UNCG releases list of 19 programs it may discontinue

Published January 17, 2024

By Joe Killian

[Editorial note: After publishing this story Tuesday, NC Newsline became aware several of the data points reported by UNCG were inaccurate. Professors and department heads, already concerned about the accuracy of the data used to evaluate their programs, came forward to show the university had publicly misreported the number of majors and minors in some of their programs – in some cases by dozens. Newsline is working to correct those numbers even as the university itself is updating the numbers and acknowledging its errors.]

Five undergraduate majors, 11 graduate programs and three undergraduate minors, certificates or course offerings could be eliminated as part of an “ongoing academic portfolio review” at UNC-Greensboro, Chancellor Frank Gilliam announced Tuesday. Gilliam shared an initial list based on recommendations from the university’s deans — a process that has led to tensions among students, faculty, alumni and administrators for more than a year.

After a series of public forums for faculty, students and alumni over the next two weeks, Provost Debbie Storrs will make final recommendations to Gilliam, who will make final decisions on the future of the programs and majors Feb. 1.

There are 194 graduate and undergraduate students currently pursuing degrees in those majors and programs, according to university records. They would all be able to finish their studies, the university has repeatedly emphasized, with the elimination process taking years to complete.

“It’s less than 1% of our total undergraduate population and less than 2% of the total graduate population,” Gilliam told Newsline in an interview late Tuesday.

A photo of UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam.
UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam. (Photo: UNCG)


Undergraduate majors recommended for discontinuation, with 123 total students currently enrolled in either a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences program, include:

  • Anthropology (68 students)
  • Secondary Education in Geography (zero students); the other undergraduate geography programs are not affected
  • Religious Studies (26 students)
  • Physics (44 students)
  • Physical Education, Teacher Education, K-12 (seven students)

The deans also recommended discontinuing undergraduate minors in Chinese, Korean and Russian languages. The Chinese minor recommended for discontinuation currently has 34 students and Russian 7.  Korean course currently on offer are full, with faculty taking on extra courses, according to a department source who spoke to Newsline Tuesday.

Graduate programs recommended for discontinuation, with 71 total students currently enrolled:

Certificate programs

  • Nursing (seven students)
  • Advanced Practice Foundations, nursing (five students)

Master’s degree programs

  • Applied Geography (nine students)
  • Drama Concentration in Directing (0 students); concentrations in Musical Direction for Musical Theatre, Theatre for Youth, and Design will continue.
  • Interior Architecture (three students)
  • Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (seven students)
  • Languages, Literatures and Cultures in Teaching (one student)
  • Mathematics, all concentrations, (seven students)
  • Special Education (eight students)
  • Dual degrees in Nursing Science and Business Administration (11 students); the stand-alone MBA and standalone MSN are not affected.

Ph.D programs

  • Communication Sciences and Disorders (13 students)

The deans also recommended admissions pauses for the Master of Fine Arts in Drama with Concentration in Acting and a Ph.D. program in Social Work offered jointly with nearby N.C. A&T University.

Gilliam said the academic portfolio review was necessary to both tighten the university’s belt during a period of financial and enrollment challenges and to concentrate the university’s resources on majors and programs that are in high student demand: for which there are positive trends in enrollment and in which students are seeing success, which translate to success later in life and are important to the university’s mission.

UNCG is the only university in the 16-campus UNC System currently conducting such a program review. But Gilliam said he doesn’t think that will be the case for long. All campuses have to evolve, he said, to change in their offerings and their identities over their long lives in the best interests of the students they serve.

That means, he said, they won’t necessarily offer the same majors forever.

“If a student is interested in one of these other subjects, there’s plenty of places in North Carolina for them to go,” Gilliam said. “On the other hand, we want to be the school of choice if you’re thinking about business or performing arts or education or nursing or whatever it is. And it’s a zero-sum game, right? What I give to ‘A’ I can’t give to ‘B’. And what this exercise is trying to figure out is who the ‘A’s are and who the ‘B’s.”

Prominent faculty members told Newsline the list contained a number of surprises, such as post-grad nursing programs. Last year, Gilliam dismissed the idea nursing programs would be cut, as they are such an important part of the school’s identity and have seen recent growth and investment.

The areas of nursing recommended for discontinuation, Gilliam said, were certificate rather than graduate programs. Certificate programs are in lower demand, he said. There also hasn’t been as much demand for a dual master’s in nursing and business administration, he said, possibly because students can do well with either degree without getting both.

Anthropology was also a surprise, said several faculty members who were part of the evaluation process leading up to these recommendations. That program scored so well no one expected to see the major targeted for discontinuation. It also has more current majors than some areas of study that didn’t end up on the list.

Faculty members are still taking in the recommendations and pages of explanation from deans, they said, and expect to officially respond later this week.

It isn’t yet clear how many faculty positions could be eliminated as a result of the discontinued programs. While they may no longer be teaching courses toward a major in a certain subject, Gilliam said, they could continue teaching courses in the subject that count toward other requirements. Though physics as a major is on the list of programs recommended for discontinuation, lower level physics courses would still be taught for other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors. Similarly, minors in Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies aren’t being considered for discontinuation, but Religious Studies — under which they are now housed- – is on the list of undergraduate majors deans recommended cutting.

From here, Gilliam said, he and the provost will hold a series of public meetings on the recommendations.

On Wednesday, the campus’ faculty senate will meet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the campus Alumni House, followed by a student forum on Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Elliot University Center Auditorium. A campus-wide forum will be held in the same space on Jan 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and an alumni forum will be held virtually that evening from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re going to listen,” Gilliam said. “These engagements are for us to to really stress test this. Is there something we’re just flat missing — you know, we can’t see the forest for the trees in some sort of way?”