The University of Baltimore will keep its four-year undergraduate program, officials announced Wednesday, but the program will undergo some changes.
The decision came about after the university’s leaders sought feedback from faculty, staff, alumni and others, such as University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. (Brit) Kirwan.
“It’s been a very in-depth conversation and what came out of it was a sense that this was not an either-or proposition,” said University President Kurt L. Schmoke. “We recognized that we needed to make some improvements in our freshman program, which we will do.”
The university plans to bolster the connection between its first-year program and its career-oriented business, law, public affairs and applied liberal arts programs.
It has implemented a new student advising services, which emphasize career options early in students’ first semester. The school redesigned its first-year curriculum and is planning to pilot a residential living/learning program beginning next fall.
UB will also implement a hard April 1 deadline for applications, said Schmoke, to attract more motivated students. In the past it had rolling admissions, accepting students well into the summer. The university will also assess its admissions standards.
Some of these measures, such as the improved student services and freshmen curriculum, were already in the works long before faculty learned that the four-year undergraduate program might be on the chopping block. But the recent discussions helped to move these projects forward.
“This is our first semester pulling all of these ideas and curriculum redesign together,” said Laura Bryan, dean of the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. “The campus has been energized by the conversation.”
Schmoke had said in an interview with The Daily Record last month that he had been discussing with university groups the possibility of eliminating some or all of the college’s four-year programs. His comments in the interview prompted a lively debate on campus.
“It was a real split,” said Schmoke, between faculty members who wanted to specialize in upper-level undergraduate, professional and graduate programs and those who wanted to keep admitting freshmen. “It was a good, healthy debate.”
University officials had said they planned to announce a decision about the undergraduate programs during the fall semester, but Schmoke did not want to procrastinate. He wanted to make sure prospective applicants would not be confused about the status of the undergraduate program.
“More importantly we didn’t want the debate to drag on to the point that it became divisive,” he said. “We didn’t want people taking sides on this.”
UB reintroduced four-year programs only seven years ago. But freshmen did not stampede the campus — only 150 enrolled in that fall of 2007, and 250 were admitted for the current academic year. UB’s overall undergraduate enrollment last year was about 3,500.
The program improvements, as well as ongoing outreach to community colleges in Maryland, are intended to increase enrollment, said Schmoke. However, he expects that before such an increase will start, the university will see a dip in undergraduate enrollments next fall because of the earlier application deadline.
“We think once high school counselors and freshmen learn about the quality of our programs, the combination of word of mouth and our marketing will increase our numbers,” he said.