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WKU Regents vote to suspend two academic programs, approve six-year building plan

WKU Communications and Marketing

The Western Kentucky University Board of Regents has voted to suspend two academic programs.

The Master of Arts in Folk Studies and the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture were eliminated during the board’s quarterly meeting on Thursday due to low enrollment and unfilled teaching positions. Currently enrolled students will be permitted to complete their degree. Undergraduate offerings will not be affected.

The board vote ends one of two undergraduate programs in agriculture. The university currently offers two Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degrees. One operates as a stand-alone program, while the other requires students to complete a second major or minor. In an effort to increase efficiency, faculty members voted to close the program requiring a second major or minor.

President Timothy Caboni said agriculture will continue to be an important part of the curriculum at WKU.

"We took the steps to consolidate two essentially same programs under two different names and two different degrees types into a single Bachelor of Agriculture," Caboni told WKU Public Radio. "What we will do is ensure our students don't have to deal with duplication or confusion through this work."

In addition to classroom instruction, WKU owns a 900-acre farm as part of the agriculture program.

Regents also approved the university’s Six Year Capital Plan for 2024-2030, which includes replacing the Academic Complex.

Caboni said the original plan was to renovate the building that housing nursing, social work, public broadcasting, and dental hygiene, among other programs.

"To be candid, I took a walk through the building, and investing $90 million on a structure that was built 50 years ago to be a 30 year structure, is not a good investment of the scarce resources of the state," Caboni said.

There’s no timeline for construction of a new Academic Complex, which will be dependent on funding from the state legislature.

Regents also approved an amended Memorandum of Understanding between the College Heights Foundation, Inc. and WKU, which clarifies the relationship between the two entities. The assets of both foundations will be consolidated under the management of the College Heights Foundation, Inc. A statement from the university said the MOU was necessary to meet the university’s accreditation requirements.

In other business, the Board of Regents approved a contract for new men’s basketball coach Steve Lutz. He’ll be paid $650,000 annually along with performance incentives through 2027.

In addition, the board gave a one-year contract extension to head football coach Tyson Helton, extending his employment through 2026.

In other business, the Board recognized outgoing Regent George Nichols III, whose term ends in June, for his six years of service on the Board.

WKU's Board of Regents will next meet for a special called budget meeting on June 2.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.