Administrators are preparing for a 25 percent loss of state support to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, meaning the possibility of cutting the Student Academic Advising Center, Career Services and reducing First Year Seminars.
“These offices are what help students figure out what they want to do for their careers,” said first-year undeclared major Kirk Prince. “If they can figure this out, they are more likely to stay in school.”
“Our offices are currently in jeopardy, but the discussions are still going on,” said Angie Kellogg, director of Career Services and the center. “I really feel that this decision would have an impact on campus.”
She said many students who are undeclared, about 20 percent of every first-year class, turn to the services for guidance.
“We [SAAC] help students develop educational plans and with the decision-making process for a major as well as just helping them ease the transition of college and with what other issues come up,” Kellogg said. “We hear from students every day saying they don’t know what they would do without this office, so we worry about the loss of this service.”
Jana Schleis, lead peer adviser for the center, said she was undeclared as a freshman.
“I would not have picked UWSP if it weren’t for programs like this to support undeclared students,” Schleis said. “Meeting with peer advisers as a freshman helped me so much. When you get here at 18 years old, it is a whole new world and everything is confusing and overwhelming, then throw on top of that that I didn’t have a major. The peer advisers helped me adjust to college life and showed me how to take control of my academic planning.”
Career Services helps students explore majors and careers, prepare for the job search, find jobs and internships and locate information about graduate school.
“I use Career Services at least once a semester when applying for jobs or internships, searching for them, the cover letter and resume, preparing for interviews, the whole process,” Schleis said. “I would not be as successful without their help.”
Other students have differing opinions.
“I understand that the university has to make cuts,” said James Jansen, sophomore computer information systems major. “While they’re nice services, they’re not necessary. Classes are my necessity.”
Kellogg referenced a survey that had been done of all incoming students, and 94 percent said academic advising and career counseling were the most important services a university could provide.
“It doesn’t seem to make sense that those are services we would be getting rid of at this time, particularly at a time where student retention and success are so important,” Kellogg said.
“We know students want jobs and want to be employed after college,” Kellogg said. “That’s what our office [Career Services] helps to do. We also continue to provide services for alumni long after graduation and services for a lifetime. We’re one of the few offices that do that.”
Kellogg does not think there is a plan in place for where students could turn if these offices are cut. She said these responsibilities would likely be assumed by faculty, but discussions are preliminary.
“This does take a large knowledge and skill set as well as time and accessibility to work with students,” Kellogg said. “You just wonder how that will be adequately absorbed. Faculty and staff are already going to be asked to do more and more with less time.”
Last year, there were more than 4,000 appointments between the two offices.
Kellogg said many students, faculty, staff, alumni and employers are standing up and voicing their opinions on this potential cut.
“We have a lot of people with a strong voice providing feedback, so we are hopeful that we might still be able to change things and turn things around,” Kellogg said.
Chancellor Bernie Patterson said no matter where the decisions turn, outcomes will be detrimental.
“We have not made any big picture decisions yet,” Patterson said. “Everything is in the conversation stage. This is just the beginning of the conversation.”
“It comes down to what is the best out of several bad alternatives,” Patterson said.
Scaling Back First Year Seminars
Provost Greg Summers proposed eliminating FYS for direct savings, about $400,000, and moving faculty to other academic areas.
Professor Mary Bowman, chair of the General Education Committee, said the committee passed a resolution on Feb. 13 encouraging the provost to allow FYS to continue.
Summers said the program will still be available, but there will likely be cuts to the number of sections offered and to additional hiring to allow professors to teach sections.
“We are still basically gearing up our program, so we don’t know a lot of the impact it’s having here, but we know from research elsewhere that it really helps, especially students who maybe wouldn’t have succeeded in college, do well,” Bowman said. “A lot of people believe it’s got great potential.”
Bowman has taught FYS under “The Lord of the Rings” section since it was in in its pilot stage four years ago, agrees that the program has potential and personally enjoys teaching it.
Sophomore philosophy major Ethan Cates took an FYS course on Jesus in music and film during the 2013-14 academic year, the first year the courses were officially a requirement.
“I think the courses open up your mind to other things and improve writing skills, but I don’t necessarily think they should be required,” Cates said. “Because FYS is required, I think it automatically lessens motivation because of the time commitment when there are more relevant courses to take. It could be a beneficial elective, though.”
While some students found direct benefits from these courses, such as improved study skills, others thought their time could have been spent elsewhere.
“I think a class on how to write papers would have helped me and other business majors more,” said Cody Gabryshak, junior accounting, business administration and economics major.
Bowman said the General Education Program is already relatively “bare bones,” and the committee felt these cuts were not strategic for the relatively new program, which is designed to create strong study skills, acquaintance to campus and connections with other students who have similar interests.
News and Environment Editor