University of Alaska Fairbanks to Eliminate Economics Degree

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The University of Alaska Fairbanks is discontinuing its economics degree program.

The Board of Regents made the decision to cut the program during its most recent meeting.

Two faculty members recently received layoff notices, giving them one year left to teach, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Tuesday.

The university’s Faculty Senate met at the end of April to discuss the potential discontinuation of several academic programs. Economics was on that list, as well as sociology, geography and dental hygiene, among others.

While the faculty voted in favor of keeping economics, administrators chose otherwise.

Enrollment in the program was suspended in March 2016. However, the program will remain intact for several years, allowing the 20 students with declared economics majors enough time to graduate.

“If an academic program is discontinued, we are still required to ‘teach it out’,” University of Alaska Fairbanks spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said. “So we have to provide a reasonable amount of time to students for them to complete their degree.”

A larger and more fully staffed economics program will remain at the Anchorage campus, Provost and Vice Chancellor Susan Henrichs said.

The Alaska Legislature continues to drop the University of Alaska Fairbanks annual budget – decreasing it by $8 million this year alone.

While eliminating programs may decrease costs, there are trade-offs, Henrichs said.

“Cutting costs is clearly a necessary thing to do in the current economic situation,” she said. “I don’t really see any gain beyond that. Broadly, if we have somewhat fewer programs, we can be a little more efficient, but there are trade-offs. And when we eliminate programs, we’re certainly concerned that we won’t be able to attract as many students.”

Sherri Wall, an economics professor, said she believes discontinuing the program is a significant disservice to the university.

“It’s interesting to me that (University of Alaska) President (James) Johnsen says he won’t continue to cut high-demand degrees when in fact they are,” Wall said. “The economics major is one of the top demand degrees according to national standards. Even after only a four-year degree, economics can send students into some of the highest-paying jobs.”

Wall has been teaching economics at the university for 10 years and started the Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking program. She received her termination notice a few weeks ago.

“Here we are in economic crisis and we’re eliminating the economics program,” Wall said. “I think economic illiteracy is rampant and part of the reason our country is in the state it is in, because people just don’t understand it. That’s a problem.”

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