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Guide to Manage Risks Associated With Program Change

March 2020

Why Read This

Economic pressures increasingly are forcing the boards and leaders of higher education institutions to confront the prospect of academic program changes, which range from reducing or terminating specific programs to altering institutional control (often through mergers among institutions) to the most drastic option, closing an institution. This guide discusses the major issues leadership must consider in contemplating any of the three types of program change, including common legal, accreditation, and reputational risks to the institution, and provides practical advice for addressing them.

This publication was written for United Educators by Husch Blackwell, a law firm with a national higher education practice. The lead authors are partners Ellen M. Babbitt and Lisa J. Parker. Contributing authors are partner Kate M. Leveque, consultant Lisa M. Hoskins, and associate Karen L. Courtheoux.

Key Takeaways

  • All steps along the continuum of potential program changes involve significant risks.
  • An institution considering program change cannot eliminate risks, but it can mitigate them through careful planning and an appropriate deliberation process.
  • Implementing a program change in a planned, effective, and transparent manner, minimizes risk and institutional trauma.

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