Faculty Joint Committee

Our priority is our students—their learning and their success. This priority drives all of our decisions and is at the heart of everything we do, from increasing scholarship opportunities to investing in new academic programs and developing new resources that support students.

The changes we are experiencing at PLU right now are about proactively taking control of PLU’s future and setting our own path. Our ultimate objective is to ensure that PLU remains a sustainable learning community that fulfills our mission with exceptionally strong academic programs grounded in the liberal arts, informed by global perspective, and delivered by faculty members uniquely committed to guiding students on their vocational journey.

A changing higher education landscape and PLU

The higher education landscape is changing. Colleges nationwide are facing rising costs, decreasing revenue, and, demographically, a smaller pool of applicants—trends that were emerging before the pandemic.

Changing demographics have led to smaller cohorts of students entering college over the past 10 years or so, a pattern we know will only accelerate as we approach 2025 and beyond (given the dip in birth rate that accompanied the 2008 recession). Simply put: we have fewer undergraduate students at PLU now than we did 10 years ago, and we anticipate that trend will only continue into the next decade. We made an initial adjustment for these shifts in 2016-2017, and have determined that it is time to do so again. This time, armed with projections about enrollment trends into the next decade, we will make adjustments to see us through and beyond the 2025 demographic “cliff.” 

Is this happening because of COVID-19?

The higher education landscape is changing. Universities nationwide are facing rising costs, decreasing revenue, and a smaller pool of applicants. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated our need for a long-term solution, and there is reason to imagine that the pandemic may change the immediate plans of students who would otherwise be college-going, but the circumstances we are addressing are not solely related to the pandemic.

Faculty Joint Committee process

One way we have responded to these challenges is by engaging an established faculty process that considers these questions. The faculty at PLU are now involved in an intensive, university-wide process of reviewing and revising our academic programs. The purpose of this initiative is to make sure we’re offering the programs that best respond to student interests while effectively stewarding our resources and aligning with our commitment to offering liberal arts and professional education in the tradition of Lutheran higher education. This work will pave the way for continued growth in new fields that our 21st-century students are interested in studying, and that meet the world’s greatest needs.

The project will begin in November, when the president will convene the Faculty Joint Committee to ensure that PLU has fiscal alignment between the programs it offers, the faculty needed to support those programs, and the demand for those majors, minors, and graduate programs by students. The committee—composed of twenty faculty representatives from every academic division and school—will review enrollment data, solicit reports from academic leaders to understand their connection to the university’s educational mission, and analyze PLU’s place in the higher education landscape to develop its recommendations. Once that work is completed in mid-March, the committee will make its final recommendations to PLU’s president for review. After thoughtful consideration, the president will make formal recommendations to the Board of Regents, with a formal vote tentatively scheduled for late March.

This page will continue to develop throughout the FJC process with updates and resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PLU doing? Why now?

In November 2020, PLU announced plans to take the next steps in fulfilling its vision for the future. In addition to a comprehensive approach to growth, the university has established a committee of faculty representatives charged with reviewing current offerings and recommending changes, including reductions, to realign academic programs in its new strategic plan.

We’re engaged in a faculty-led process to review our academic programs. PLU regularly assesses the possibilities of adding new academic programs to ensure we offer degrees that students are seeking while building on the university’s strengths. The members of the committee, formally called the Faculty Joint Committee, will evaluate programs that are already established.

Our goal is to offer programs that respond to student interests in a way that efficiently stewards resources, including time and tuition, and aligns with our commitment to offering liberal arts and professional education infused with a tradition of Lutheran higher education.

Over the next several months, members of the committee will assess current programs to ensure they align with the needs and desires of today’s students. That review will include exploring the demand for majors, minors, and graduate programs students are seeking, as well as the faculty needed to support those programs.

You may have heard from friends attending college elsewhere that other institutions are going through a similar process. The difference with PLU’s process is that it is led by faculty. Our process has clearly delineated steps with multiple opportunities to consider new and existing data about programs, and to offer responses to recommendations.

The committee—composed of twenty elected faculty representatives from every academic division and school—will review enrollment data, solicit reports from academic leaders to understand their enrollment trends, and analyze PLU’s place in the higher education landscape to develop its recommendations. Once that work is completed in mid-March, the committee will make its final recommendations to PLU’s president for review. After thoughtful consideration, the president will make formal recommendations to the Board of Regents, with a formal vote tentatively scheduled for late March.

Why are we doing this?

It’s part of our ongoing mission to make the university affordable by offering substantial scholarships and financial aid in order to fulfill our commitment to accessibility for students, guiding them on their path to purposeful vocation. To meet this goal, it is essential that our budget remain balanced.

Changing demographics have led to fewer students entering college over the past decade. Like many of our peers, we have fewer students at PLU now than we did in 2010. During that same time the overall size of our faculty has remained relatively consistent and our course offerings have not been reduced (in fact, they have grown). Our commitment is to deliver high-quality programs, offered by talented faculty with deep expertise in teaching and their disciplines, in an affordable, community-centered way.

Colleges are working harder than ever to attract students from an increasingly limited pool of students. This is particularly true in regions such as the Northeast and Midwest, which have experienced little to no population growth. As a result, colleges in those parts of the country are recruiting here in Washington. A recent survey showed that fewer than half of all midsize public and private colleges met their enrollment goals last year. That being said, PLU is in a relatively advantaged position, given that we are in a modest-growth market; we continue to invest in programs that support diverse and military-affiliated student access and success; and we have built forecasts based on the reality of the number of high school graduates plateauing through 2023 before dropping sharply in 2025.

Given the current financial situation, does this mean PLU is at risk of closing?

No, however, loss of revenue due to declining enrollment requires an equal and opposite fiscal response. We face the same enrollment challenges as the vast majority of institutions of private higher education, but we are taking control of our future by responding strategically to the needs of today’s students and our investment in their learning and success. We view the FJC process as necessary in light of our current budget environment, but also as part of a larger effort to build an organization that will remain fiscally strong beyond our current forecast horizon.

What is the FJC and what does it do?

The Faculty Joint Committee on the Reduction and Reallocation of Force (or FJC for short) is composed of the members of three faculty standing committees: Educational Policies, Faculty Affairs, and Rank and Tenure. Faculty members are from across the university and have been elected by their peers for service on these committees. In total, there are 20 faculty on the FJC.

The FJC is currently reviewing all 49 of our undergraduate and graduate programs in order to make recommendations to the president regarding which programs might be identified for elimination or a reduction in the number of faculty positions. This is the process that our faculty approved in our Faculty Handbook. 

The need for change is being driven by shifting dynamics in the higher education landscape. Every university needs to align its offerings to meet the wants and needs of tomorrow’s students and to deliver those programs in a way that efficiently stewards university resources, including tuition.

When will we know what's happening?

In accordance with our Faculty Handbook, the FJC and the provost have asked each of our academic programs to submit a proposal that identifies how their program aligns with the university’s educational mission, explains their costs and revenue, and provides ideas for achieving efficiencies or generating additional revenue. These proposals are due January 25.

The proposals will be reviewed by the FJC and the provost, who will consult with one another as they prepare independent provisional recommendations for reduction. The deans and chairs of the academic units identified in the set of provisional recommendations will develop second proposals to respond to the goals and questions identified by the FJC.

The FJC and provost will review the second proposals, independently and in consultation with one another. In so doing, both the committee and the provost may reconsider and revise their provisional recommendations. The FJC and provost will then issue a set of final recommendations to the president.

The president will review the final recommendations of the FJC and the provost, determining the recommendations to be presented to the Board of Regents. The board will consider those recommendations at a special meeting this spring, at which point they will make final decisions about any reductions in positions or programs. The impacted faculty will be informed as soon as the final details are determined.

What new programs have been added in recent years?

Our innovative faculty continue to develop curricula reflecting both new directions in their fields and new interests held by students. Over the past several years, we’ve introduced the following academic programs:

Peace Corp Prep Certificate (Fall 2016)
Native American and Indigenous Studies (Fall 2018)
Innovation Studies (Fall 2018)
Early Christian Studies (Fall 2018)
Musical Theatre (Fall 2018)
Data Science (Fall 2019)
Latino Studies (Fall 2020)
Gender, Sexuality, and Race Studies (Fall 2020)
Criminal Justice (Fall 2020)

Our strategic plan calls for PLU to become the premier Health Sciences university in the Puget Sound. Building on our demonstrated excellence in health sciences–related fields, we anticipate expanding these areas in the years ahead. When the work of the Faculty Joint Committee is complete, the Educational Policies Committee (our faculty committee tasked with reviewing new programs) is poised to consider a number of proposed new programs that came to them during Fall 2020.

How can PLU alumni help?

PLU alumni are extraordinarily engaged in powerful and meaningful ways across the university. Here are three ways that you can support this faculty process:

1) Voice your support for PLU and your faculty. Reach out to the professors who helped shape your life, and let them know what they mean to you. The faculty have hard work ahead of them as they determine the curriculum at PLU, and there are no easy decisions. Let them know you appreciate the work they do!

2) Volunteer. Raise your hand to share your professional expertise with current students and new alumni through the office of Alumni and Student Connectionsor talk with prospective students about PLU! The world needs more Lutes.

3) Provide financial support. The incredible work that our faculty and students are able to accomplish is the direct result of the support provided by our network of alumni and university friends. Please consider making a gift in the name of someone who has inspired you! You can choose specific schools, departments, and programs as recipients.

For Students

Will class sizes increase as a result of program or position elimination?

It’s difficult to answer this with a one-size-fits-all response. The average class size is 20 and most students will not see demonstrable change. Some class sizes will remain unchanged because of the physical layout of teaching spaces, program accreditation requirements, or other factors. Other class sizes may increase slightly (again, within the limits of our teaching spaces). Most significantly, we anticipate seeing fewer courses at risk of cancellation due to low enrollments when this process is complete.

Will program eliminations affect PLUS Year eligibility?

PLUS Year eligibility is tied to students’ enrollment status, not to their participation in one program or another. Therefore, program elimination will not affect PLUS Year eligibility. (For more information, visit PLU Year FAQs.)

What will happen to students who are majoring or minoring in programs that are being eliminated?

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students at PLU; appropriate courses of action will be context-dependent and will need to be thoroughly vetted by faculty and administration, with input from students, to ensure that any students who are affected by academic program changes are able to complete their chosen degree programs.

Students majoring in an affected program will be supported as they finish their degree. Our commitment to student success is as strong as it has ever been, and we are committed to accommodating students who are enrolled in affected units. At some universities currently undergoing reductions, academic programs are sunsetted over time, such that no new students may declare majors and minors once the reductions are announced, but students who have already declared them can complete their programs as designed; at others, students complete their degree programs through independent study.

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students. The Center for Student Success will develop program-specific advising guides following the Board of Regents’ announcement of their decisions in March or April of 2021, well in advance of fall registration.

Can students continue to declare majors/minors in areas slated for elimination?

Students can declare majors/minors in all currently offered programs at this time. We anticipate that once the Board of Regents announces their course of action in March or April of 2021, any programs identified for elimination will cease to enroll new majors/minors (among current or incoming students).

If my program is eliminated, how will I know how to select courses and complete my degree?

The Center for Student Success will develop program-specific advising guides following the Board of Regents’ announcement of their decisions in March or April of 2021, well in advance of fall registration. Having said that, we don’t anticipate changes to impact course offerings until the 2022–2023 academic year, at the earliest.

How can I support my faculty when they are stressing about the FJC?

PLU students are in a great position to support faculty, by living our mission of care.  Reach out to the professors who helped shape your life, and let them know what they mean to you. The faculty have hard work ahead of them as they determine the curriculum at PLU, and there are no easy decisions. Let them know you appreciate the work they do!

Acknowledge that your professors may be taking on extra work responding to the FJC process (such as writing reports) and may be experiencing a wide range of emotions right now in this difficult process.

Appreciation. You can support them by letting them know you appreciate them. Show that you understand they may have distractions outside of classes and students.  The work they are doing to respond to the FJC is directly related to the care they have for PLU students.

What new programs have been added in recent years?

Our innovative faculty continue to develop curricula reflecting both new directions in their fields and new interests held by students. Over the past several years, we’ve introduced the following academic programs:

Peace Corp Prep Certificate (Fall 2016)
Native American and Indigenous Studies (Fall 2018)
Innovation Studies (Fall 2018)
Early Christian Studies (Fall 2018)
Musical Theatre (Fall 2018)
Data Science (Fall 2019)
Latino Studies (Fall 2020)
Gender, Sexuality, and Race Studies (Fall 2020)
Criminal Justice (Fall 2020)

Our strategic plan calls for PLU to become the premier Health Sciences university in the Puget Sound. Building on our demonstrated excellence in health sciences–related fields, we anticipate expanding these areas in the years ahead. When the work of the Faculty Joint Committee is complete, the Educational Policies Committee (our faculty committee tasked with reviewing new programs) is poised to consider a number of proposed new programs that came to them during Fall 2020.

How will this affect prospective students?

Our mission and core values are unchanged. PLU has been delivering quality education to students for more than 130 years and will continue to do that.

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say which programs might be affected. Incoming students may notice a curriculum that has been modified to reflect a renewed effort to be vital and attractive to students.

There is a possibility that some graduate and undergraduate programs may be eliminated, which we will know for certain following the Board of Regents’ special meeting this spring. If this is the case, the Office of Admission will notify students who have indicated interest in this area to help them review adjacent programs at PLU, as well as programs at peer institutions that might be a good fit.

How will this affect current students?

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students at PLU; appropriate courses of action will be context-dependent and will need to be thoroughly vetted by faculty and administration, with input from students, to ensure that any students who are affected by academic program changes are able to complete their chosen degree programs.

Students majoring in an affected program will be supported as they finish their degree. Our commitment to student success is as strong as it has ever been, and we are committed to accommodating students who are enrolled in affected units. At some universities currently undergoing reductions, academic programs are sunsetted over time, such that no new students may declare majors and minors once the reductions are announced, but students who have already declared them can complete their programs as designed; at others, students complete their degree programs through independent study.

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students. The Center for Student Success will develop program-specific advising guides following the Board of Regents’ announcement of their decisions in March or April of 2021, well in advance of fall registration.

Will these changes be implemented this academic year or next?

It depends on the program. In some units, for example, recent retirements have not been replaced; in this case, the change has already happened. In other units, we may see faculty remain in their positions and programs remain unchanged through this academic year and the next (2021-22). 

Because this is not a response to a crisis but rather a strategic response to the changing higher education landscape, we can roll out changes on our timeline (in accordance with our Faculty Handbook).

Will I have guidance before I register for fall classes?

The Center for Student Success will develop program-specific advising guides following the Board of Regents’ announcement of their course of action in March or April of 2021, well in advance of registration. Having said that, we don’t anticipate changes to impact course offerings until the 2022–23 academic year, at the earliest.

When will we know the outcome of this process?

After the Board of Regents meets to make their decisions we’ll know with certainty which programs are affected. We anticipate that this meeting will take place in late March or early April. The university will then announce these decisions to the campus. Students in affected programs will receive tailored guidance from our Center for Student Success regarding any implications for their degree progression.

Who’s going to help me figure out my academic path if my major is impacted?

The Center for Student Success will work with department chairs, deans, and faculty advisors to ensure that all current students with declared programs of study are able to continue toward their degree goals. The Center for Student Success will develop and share program-specific advising guides following the Board of Regents’ announcement of their decisions in March or April of 2021, well in advance of fall registration.

How long do I have to finish my program?

Your degree progression timeline will be unchanged, regardless of any decisions related to your program. At some universities now undergoing reductions, academic programs are sunsetted over time, such that no new students may declare majors and minors once the final reductions are announced, but students who have already declared them can complete their programs as designed. At other universities, students complete their degree programs through independent study.

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students. Appropriate courses of action will be program-dependent and will need to be thoroughly vetted by faculty and administration, with input from students to ensure that any students who are affected by academic program changes are able to complete their chosen degree programs.

What happens when the courses I need are no longer being offered?

Your degree progression timeline will be unchanged, regardless of any decisions related to your program. At some universities now undergoing reductions, academic programs are sunsetted over time, such that no new students may declare majors and minors once the final reductions are announced, but students who have already declared them can complete their programs as designed. At other universities, students complete their degree programs through independent study.

Because the work of the FJC is not complete, it is too early to say what exact measures we will put in place to accommodate students. Appropriate courses of action will be program-dependent and will need to be thoroughly vetted by faculty and administration, with input from students to ensure that any students who are affected by academic program changes are able to complete their chosen degree programs.

Does this change the PLUS Year program?

No. (For more information, visit PLU Year FAQs.)

Does this affect my graduation plans?

No. Your degree progression timeline will be unchanged, regardless of any decisions related to your program. At some universities now undergoing reductions, academic programs are sunsetted over time, such that no new students may declare majors and minors once the final reductions are announced, but students who have already declared them can complete their programs as designed. At other universities, students complete their degree programs through independent study.