Washington State University will cut the number of courses it offers by 20 percent, eliminate majors and minors, and redirect resources...

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Washington State University will cut the number of courses it offers by 20 percent, eliminate majors and minors, and redirect resources toward its strongest areas, a new university report says.

The report calls for an audit of all university courses, majors and minors, as well as an “overhaul” of general-education programs — the core courses that students take in their first couple of years.

The report, issued Tuesday, is part of a widespread effort to sharpen the university’s focus on its highest priorities rather than trying to be all things to all people, administrators said.

“We are spread too thin as a university, and we need to focus our resources,” said Larry James, the university’s associate executive vice president. “Just about everything in this document is designed to do that in one way or another.”

WSU now offers about 6,700 separate courses, but many are rarely taught or have low enrollments, the university said in a news release. Administrators hope that by eliminating such courses, faculty members will be able to devote more attention to scholarship and teaching in WSU’s strongest areas.

The report follows seven months of discussions and evaluations at WSU as part of an effort to identify focused areas of scholarship within each college and to eliminate courses and degrees that draw relatively few students. It also calls for a new approach to hiring, with an emphasis on building “critical mass” in focused areas of scholarship, and it calls for a plan for redirecting faculty toward areas of high priority.

Provost Bob Bates released the 18-page report, which includes several decisions about programs, including the elimination of bachelor’s degrees in forestry, and community and rural sociology, that are “on the way to being final.”

It also includes recommendations for changes — from eliminating programs to reducing, merging or reorganizing them — and asks each college to audit its courses and majors, and make suggestions for changes by June 15. A final plan is expected Sept. 26, though some changes will take longer to develop.

“Reductions will vary across programs,” the report says, “but should total approximately 20 percent universitywide.”

Bates and James said Tuesday that the overhaul of general education is intended to examine course requirements and bring more tenure-track faculty into teaching those classes, which are handled largely by graduate teaching assistants and part-time instructors.

“We have put too many of those courses in the hands of our least experienced instructors,” Bates said during a campus meeting in Pullman.

One element of the report focuses on hiring faculty, calling for a strategy of hiring and retraining professors into “priority areas of research/scholarship and teaching, rather than filling existing specific teaching assignments.”

Among “priority areas” that have emerged for WSU: Development of a center to study global animal diseases, building on the university’s extensive experience in veterinary medicine, and creation of a Health Sciences division with headquarters in Spokane.

The report also directs some colleges to develop more specific areas of focus for investment. For example, an internal review will determine how to develop a multi-department program on the environment and sustainability.