Dear LVC Community,
In the 152 years since its founding, Lebanon Valley College has refined its academic offerings many times to meet the changing needs of college students, the central Pa. region, and society as a whole. Most recently, we launched 11 new majors in the last five years and invested in the faculty, programs, and facilities to support these—including the new Jeanne and Edward H. Arnold Health Professions Pavilion and the Edward and Lynn Breen Center for Graduate Success. Through these changes, we have remained committed to our mission of delivering a transformative education built on the liberal arts and empowering our students to pursue lives of learning, citizenship, and success.
Right now, there are seismic shifts happening in higher education, from online programs, to cost concerns, to potential reductions in state grant aid, to demographic declines within our primary market. We are therefore taking the opportunity to further renew our offerings, in keeping with our mission, to provide students with the exceptional academic offerings they desire. | See FAQs for further information on these proposed changes.
We are proactively restructuring academics at a time when LVC is in a position of great strength. For the second consecutive year, we have brought in the largest class in history. Fiscal year 2018 was a record one for fundraising. And we are ensuring LVC’s affordability for families, having invested an additional $14 million in institutional financial aid since 2014.
In March 2018, the Executive Committee of the board approved a resolution directing the LVC administration to work jointly with the faculty to reduce academic program and organizational costs by $1.6 million. In the months since, a task force of two faculty from each division of the College, headed by Michael Green, vice president of academic affairs, convened to analyze data, collect faculty input, and compile a report of preliminary recommendations. The task force is now gathering additional feedback from the faculty on these preliminary recommendations. Students are also being involved in the process through Student Government-run discussions.
The faculty-led task force’s final report is due for faculty vote in November and will be submitted to the Executive Committee no later than Dec. 5, 2018. The full board will vote on the recommendations at its February 2019 meeting.
This initiative arose partly from the need to reallocate funds, reduce expenses, and identify new revenue streams for the College. But at a time of much uncertainty and competition in higher education, making strategic changes to LVC’s academic program has a much broader purpose. The changes we will make are proactive ones that any excellent college or university must pursue continually to remain strong in the long term.
The charge from the Board of Trustees has empowered us to examine what we do and how we are doing it so that we can enhance and expand our academic programs to better serve the students we have—and to serve more of the students who need the personalized education we offer. Other efforts to increase revenue, achieve long-term sustainability, and strengthen academic quality include adding online degree and certificate programs to serve the growing adult market and establishing strategic partnerships with businesses, healthcare organizations, and government/nonprofit entities. Our undergraduate offerings will also be reconfigured as part of this institutional transformation.
The task force process has thoroughly analyzed data according to clear decision-making guidelines. The team reviewed the instructional budget, the results of a faculty survey, institutional research data, and reports and articles; met with representatives of every academic department; identified programs that met low enrollment thresholds; and shared minutes, data, and reports with the faculty on Canvas starting in April 2018. The task force’s recommendations are based on the following guidelines:
• Provide undergraduate and graduate programs that are distinctive and meet student and employment/graduate school demand, and will drive enrollment
• Create flexibility within programs to enhance the student experience (scheduling, double majoring, transferring)
• Provide programs that support hands-on learning
• Provide programs that lead to excellent graduate outcomes (retention, employment, graduate school)
• Provide accelerated degree completion for undergraduate and graduate programs
• Emphasize high quality student learning through innovative pedagogy
• Create efficiencies within the financial model
• Align with current and future trends in higher education
We know that no matter how inclusive the process, the changes will be, for some, distressing. The recommendations are significant and will likely include the consolidation of low-enrollment departments, the elimination of some low-enrollment majors and minors, a faculty salary freeze for fiscal year 2019, early retirement incentives, the suspension of faculty load reconfiguration, adjustments to course caps, and other reductions in funding including to non-instructional academic budgets. Tenured faculty will not be eliminated. It has not been determined whether there will be any involuntary separations of faculty who do not have tenure; that will be determined after other reductions have been finalized and will likely be a small number, if any. Rest assured that students in any majors that are eliminated will be able to finish out their LVC degree in their major of choice, and they will be able to do so on time. It’s also important to note that eliminating a major does not necessarily mean eliminating all courses in a discipline. We will continue to offer, in at least some cases, 100- and possibly 200-level courses in disciplines of eliminated majors.
Our core curriculum, Constellation LVC, remains the hallmark of an LVC education. It prioritizes the crucially important outcomes of critical thinking, writing, reading, and analytical skills—those liberal arts outcomes that remain so valued among prospective students and employers alike. Each of our students, whatever their major, will continue to benefit from a liberal arts approach at LVC, and courses in liberal arts disciplines will continue to be available to students. This academic restructuring initiative places students first and will result in an academic program that meets student and societal needs and sustains the future of LVC for the long term.
I will provide updates as the conversation continues.