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Dive Brief:

  • West Virginia University will combine its agricultural college and its extension program beginning July 2024, as a part of its ongoing restructuring initiative amid a $45 million budget deficit.
  • The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and WVU Extension already share jointly appointed faculty, as well as research and outreach projects, according to a Wednesday university statement.
  • The announcement comes as the university is evaluating roughly half of its academic programs, with an eye toward cutting those with declining student interest.

Dive Insight:

The Davis-Extension merger — the result of which has yet to be named — is part of President E. Gordon Gee’s academic restructuring initiative.

Gee launched the project in December 2020 to cut costs and eliminate redundancies between departments.

In May 2021, the university announced a separate merger of two of its colleges to create the College of Applied Human Sciences. And just two months ago, the university said it would combine its College of Creative Arts and Reed College of Media

Gee described the latest merger as an example of how WVU is looking to be “a model for the modern land-grant university in an evolving higher education landscape.”

“While this decision is not solely focused on saving money, we do believe that it will result in administrative efficiencies and cost savings over time,” a spokesperson for WVU said in an email Thursday. “Savings alone are never a determining factor for academic and non-academic restructuring.”

The agriculture college currently enrolls about 1,600 degree-seeking students, according to a university spokesperson. The extension program, which has an office in each of West Virginia’s 55 counties, has agriculture and natural resources initiatives and provides community engagement opportunities.

The merger will “result in enhanced instruction both in classrooms and the community, increased potential for industry and agency partnerships, meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students and increased opportunities for faculty research collaborations,” Maryanne Reed, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs,  said in a statement.

Leaders from WVU’s agricultural and extension programs will develop a framework for the new college this fall, with decisions about its name and leadership structure expected in the coming months, the university said.

They will also gather feedback from working groups composed of faculty, staff, students and alumni during the upcoming academic year.

It is unclear if the Davis-Extension merger will lead to faculty cuts.

“It is too early to predict any job losses,” a university spokesperson said Thursday. “As a result of the reorganization, the personnel needs of the new unit may change, and some positions may be eliminated and/or transitioned into other roles critical to its success.”

In July, university officials also said they’re reviewing almost 600 full-time faculty positions as part of their audit of academic programs.

WVU leadership is expected to share the preliminary recommendations for academic program cuts with faculty Friday.

Amid this aggressive restructuring, Gee recently announced he would step down from the presidency in June 2025.