WIU making changes to save money, attract students

MOLINE, Illinois-- Western Illinois University leaders announced a realignment plan, Monday, that would shift some programs around to create new departments. During the press conference at the Quad Cities campus, they said the changes are meant to save money and increase enrollment.

“We are investing in our academic programs and service operations that will further place Western Illinois University on the leading edge and position our institution for growth, as we prepare students, faculty, and staff to lead in diverse and dynamic communities," University President Jack Thomas said in a press release.

University leaders said the changes will allow programs to collaborate more and offer students more opportunities. They said it would also save the university money, but were unable to explain further how this would exactly happen. Provost Kathy Neumann said the savings could come in administrative changes. She added these were details they were looking to clarify as they move forward from Monday's announcement. She said any layoffs or position changes are not part of this plan right now.

Here are the main departmental changes:

  • Select departments in the College of Arts and Sciences will form two new schools: the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Natural Science and Mathematics.
  • Economics will join accounting and finance to form the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance. Engineering technology will merge with engineering to become the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology.
  • Emergency management will join the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration. Social work will return to a department dedicated to that discipline with additional discussions underway about how best to support the remaining disciplines in health sciences.  The educational programs will merge to form the School of Education.
  • Within the College of Fine Arts and Communication, graphic design and graphic communication will join together.

WIU created "centers of excellence." These include business, education and community services, regional, and science and technology. University leaders said they would focus more resources towards these programs. They hope focusing on these areas will attract more students and increase retention rates.

"We want to see, in terms of our student enrollment, that it will grow because of the academic programs," Thomas said. "We want to see some new academic programs. We want to see better funding in terms of generated revenue."

The university also plans to promote its integrated degree programs as a way of enrolling more students. These programs allow students to earn both a bachelor and master degrees in five years rather than the typical six years. WIU is also adding new online programs.

“Western Illinois University is further positioning itself for the future. We are a preeminent institution in terms of quality, and we will have a new academic structure, state-of-the-art equipment to support our leading edge instruction, new admissions teams and an increased emphasis on student persistence and completion,” Thomas said.