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February 04. 2014 8:54PM

Franklin Pierce ends six majors, looks to add others

RINDGE — Franklin Pierce University announced plans last week to drop six academic degree programs.

Franklin Pierce President James F. Birge said Tuesday the university will no longer offer majors or minors in American studies, theater and dance, graphic communications, fine arts, math, and arts management.

It was a difficult, but smart choice for the university, Birge said.

"The data is very clear students are not coming to Franklin Pierce to major in those majors," Birge said. "As difficult as we know it is for the students and the faculty, we know that's not where the markets are."

Of the approximately 1,400 undergraduates enrolled at the Franklin Pierce's Rindge campus just over 100 students major in those six degrees, Birge said.

In 2012 Franklin Pierce introduced its Health Sciences major, which has been steadily driving students to the university since, Birge said.

Last fall 277 prospective students inquired about the six majors just cut, Birge said, while 896 inquired about the Health Sciences major.

"Nearly 900 students expressed an interest in the Health Sciences major as opposed to 277 that expressed an interest in those six majors," Birge said.

Since then the university has added several other new majors – such as environmental studies and health care and an accelerated business M.B.A. program.

In the near future Franklin Pierce hopes to add three new majors — new and social media, public health administration and advanced practice in nursing programs, Birge said.

While American colleges and universities traditionally move at the "speed of a glacier," when it comes to making academic changes, the Franklin Pierce Trustees urged Birge to act quickly to get ahead of external pressures that could be arises in the next few years, he said. The first being state Legislature efforts to begin charging higher institutions the state enterprise tax.

There are also federal efforts to begin measuring higher institutions based on how much money their graduates earn and what kind of jobs they enter after graduation.

"Our Board of Trustees last fall directed me to quicken the pace of changes that we have to make cause we see some external threats down the roads," Birge said.

Cutting the degrees was not based on financial reasons, Birge said, but on offering degrees that would help graduates find work in the new job market, he said. "It's not finances actually that are driving that. It's what the markets are looking for."

Students already majoring in those six degrees and any undeclared freshmen or sophomores that are clearly on the path toward one of those degrees are required to complete the courses needed for those degrees by the spring of 2016.

There are no cuts planned to full-time staff, Birge said, adding Franklin Pierce is committed to its full-time staff.

It is unclear right now how part-time staff would be affected by the academic changed, he said.

Birge said news of the changes has set off a fire storm of discussion on social media including Facebook.

Many of the news circulating online is untrue, Birge said, such as the rumor that the university will no longer offer glass blowing.

While it has never been a major or a minor, glass blowing has become an important part of the university culture, he said, and classes in this will continue in the spring and fall. Though there are no courses planned for this summer.

On Tuesday, the College of Graduate & Professional Studies at Franklin Pierce University announced a new, cohort-based, one-year accelerated Master of Business Administration program. Unlike the online M.B.A., this course would bring students together in the classroom, where they will benefit from interaction with one another and with members of the local business community, Franklin Pierce said.

The first class will run from May 2014 until May 2015 at the University's newly renovated facility in Manchester, where the University also hosts its full-time Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

mpierce@newstote.com


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