This past spring's proposed state budget cuts to higher education threatened to be so draconian that at one point, Western Washington University considered eliminating two of its eight colleges.
Faced with the big cut, the school's faculty, administration and students began working together to reorder the school's academic programs, streamlining offerings at the state's third-largest university to make Western more efficient and focused.
"It's not just the money — it's the benefits of rethinking what the state needs from Western in the future," President Bruce Shepard said of the process of redefining Western.
In the end, cuts by the state Legislature were not as bad as expected. Western lost 30 percent of its public funding, or $35 million, over the 2011-13 budget period. But after tuition increases were factored in, the cut amounted to 2.2 percent, and no colleges had to be eliminated.
When students return this fall, they'll find more than 30 programs have been phased out. But they'll also find that some of the bottlenecks in class sign-ups — backups that made it difficult to complete a degree in four years — have been eliminated.
Western has added new sections of the most popular classes, and invested in new class sign-up software, Shepard said. It compressed the science curriculum, requiring fewer courses in some science majors.
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