The Long Island University has frozen new enrolments in undergraduate programs in fields including chemistry, history, philosophy, photography, physics, sociology and public relations in what some faculty view as an assault on the liberal arts core of the institution.
The enrolment freezes follow on eliminations or freezes in recent years of other programs at the New York institution’s post campus, including programs in art history, earth system science, French, Italian, music performance, Spanish, geography and geology. A list of frozen programs provided by the chair of LIU Post’s Faculty Council also includes a number of education-related undergraduate programs as well as master’s programs predominantly in the liberal arts and education fields.
Ed Weis, LIU’s vice president for academic affairs, said in a statement that “most” of the education programs identified as frozen had been renamed or restructured, but he confirmed that some humanities programs had been frozen in line with what he described as a national trend of declining student interest in these areas.
“Over the last several years, LIU has been expanding program offerings in high-demand areas while assessing programs with low enrolment,” Weis said. “All academic programs are regularly reviewed to ensure that they are competitive, relevant and of the highest quality for our students. As a result of this best practice, certain programs with very low enrolment of entering students for a number of years were frozen. While new students will not be admitted to these programs, the university will continue to offer the necessary courses for current students to be able to graduate on time within these majors.
“The university has a fiduciary responsibility to provide a rigorous and engaging educational experience for our students,” Weis added. “The classroom experience is at its best when faculty engage their students in challenging and interesting peer-to-peer discussions. Classes with a very limited number of students do not allow for this desired level of engagement. In fact, academic programs with only a handful of majors can result in these students taking their upper-level courses as independent studies.”
LIU Post, like many private institutions, has seen enrollment declines. Total full-time-equivalent undergraduate and graduate enrollment at the Post campus has declined from 6,029 in 2015 to 5,458 in 2019, a drop of about 9.5 percent, according to data LIU provides to its bondholders. However, the number of enrolled freshmen spiked last fall to 771 students, up from 564 the fall before, an approximately 37 percent increase.
Universitywide, across all campuses, the number of total faculty has declined by 21 percent since 2015, from 1,979 to 1,558.
Audited financial statements show a 14 percent drop in universitywide operating revenues from 2014 to 2019, from about $396.5 million to $341.4 million. But net assets have risen substantially in that time, from about $291 million to roughly $506.9 million.