LBW considers cutting 3 programs

Published 11:21 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Several programs at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College are on the chopping block as officials attempt to focus funding on key academic areas, LBW President Herb Riedel confirmed yesterday.

Riedel said Wednesday that a decision to cut the surgical technology and message therapy programs has been made, while the fate of the school’s forestry program is still up in the air.

Riedel said narrowing down programs that needed to be cut from the school’s catalogue was a decision that had to be made, mostly due to budget constraints.

“We have been struggling with budget cuts from the state,” Riedel said. “And one of the consequences is that the college has been forced to look at all of the programs. We had to consider things like low enrollment, expenses and completion rates, because we want to preserve as many opportunities as we can for our students.”

Riedel said it is for many of those reasons that the forestry program found itself on the list of possible cuts.

“For years, forestry has been struggling,” Riedel said. “Last fall, we had four students. The completion rate is one of the lowest in the college; I believe it was at around 23 percent.”

Riedel said the college has “managed” seven continuous years of budget cuts as best it could, but eventually was faced with making cuts of its own when it comes to available programs.

“I’ve had a series of meetings with my administrative colleagues going back to the fall semester,” he said. “We identified the three programs.”

Riedel said surgical technology and message therapy were chosen for a number of reasons.

“What happened in surgical technology is, in the summer, our instructor resigned and left the college for personal reasons,” he said. “Consequently, we did not have the program in the fall. We put it in dormant status.”

Riedel said after reviewing the demands and the employment opportunities associated with the program, it was determined that LBW offered other programs that were “comparable” to surgical technology. The massage therapy program, he said, simply did not take make sense economically after being attempted for a number of years.

Riedel said a final determination on the school’s forestry program has yet to be made, but LBW officials recently met with local and state forestry leaders in order to discuss its future.

“There has been some reaction from the community,” Riedel said. “Last week, myself and our dean of instruction met with members of the Covington County Forestry Committee. Paul Langford is the president, and 13 members of the committee attended the meeting. We learned a lot from them. At this point, the college is kind of assessing the information we received. It’s great there is such a strong desire to make sure the program is what the industry needs. At this point, we have not made a final decision.”

Should the program be cut, Riedel said students currently on track to receive an associate’s degree in the field would be “accelerated” in order for them to complete their needed hours. Riedel said LBW will meet with the CCFC again at their regular meeting in April.