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Public Universities Cancel Classes In Painful Cost-Cutting Measures

By Greg Winter

The New York Times -- After whittling away at staff, coaxing faculty members to juggle more classes, stripping sports teams and trusting aging roofs to hold out a few years longer, many public universities have reluctantly begun chopping away at academics, making it harder for students to graduate on schedule.

The University of Illinois has canceled 1,000 classes on hundreds of subjects this year. The University of Colorado has eliminated academic programs in journalism, business, and engineering. The University of California has put off opening an entire campus.

The University of Missouri has reduced the number of class-time slots across the board.

The University of Michigan will nearly double the size of some classes, shorten library hours, and offer fewer freshman seminars. At California State University, up to 30,000 students will be turned away come spring.

“The academic cuts are probably the most severe I’ve seen,” said Edward M. Elmendorf, an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration and now a senior vice president at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “And I don’t see any mitigation in them in the coming year.”

The budget cuts, more than 10 percent of state appropriations in some cases, have been too great not to take their toll.

“There is no doubt that we’re at a stage where the quality of the educational experience is less than it was two years ago, five years ago, and certainly less than what we set for our standards,” said Robert N. Shelton, provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What this means for students will vary from campus to campus, even from major to major. Yet one of the most common academic cuts has been a reduction in the number of course sections offered -- that is, how many times a class is taught in a given semester or year.