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UMKC Announces Creation Of Three New Schools And Cuts Several Programs, Including A Graduate Theater Degree

Centric Projects/Kansas City Repertory Theatre
The James C. Olson Performing Arts Center serves UMKC's Theatre Department, which is now facing a significant program cut.

The cuts are a part of the university’s UMKC Forward plan that includes investing up to $60 million over the next five years in enrollment-boosting initiatives.

University of Missouri - Kansas City officials on Thursday announced plans to create three new schools and eliminate several existing academic programs.

The cuts are a part of an initiative the university is calling "UMKC Forward." It is intended to recover from pandemic-related financial shortcomings and boost enrollment.

The programs scheduled to close aren't showing enough student demand, officials said.

The eliminated programs include:

Bloch School

  • Entrepreneurship PhD

College of Arts and Sciences

  • Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
  • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • Master of Arts in Studio Art


  • Master of Arts in Theatre

School of Education

  • Counseling E.D.S.P

Law School

  • L.L.M Urban Affairs

School of Nursing and Health Studies

  • Public Health B.S.

The cut of the theatre master’s program comes as a loss to the university’s theatre department, which was merged with the Conservatory of Music and Dance in 2018 in an effort to highlight the school’s place as an artistic cornerstone in Kansas City.

Over the last decade, the school has struggled to find a site for a new conservatory facility. After plans for a downtown location fell through three years ago, it was announced the building will be built on campus next to its current facility.

A total of three students are currently enrolled in the master's theater program and 11 more are in the remaining programs scheduled for elimination. These students will be allowed to finish their degrees as the programs phase out over the next two to three years.

The university's Master of Fine Arts in theatre program, which currently has 48 students enrolled, will remain intact.

UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said the cut programs will not lead to layoffs, since no departments will be shutting down.

“What it does is it releases the faculty that time and effort, which they can then use for other purposes for other programs," he said. "And we are going to encourage each discipline to look for innovation, and what are modern areas where they need to be.”

Agrawal said the university will also try to operate more efficiently by consolidating some academic units into three new schools: the School of Science, Engineering and Technology; the School of Education and Applied Behavioral Sciences; and the School of Arts, Culture and Social Sciences.

“The old traditional ways may not be as relevant in the 21st century so we were looking at synergies between the different disciplines that can work together again to drive success both for faculty and students.," he said.

As part of the UMKC Forward initiative, the university will be spending $50 million to $60 million over the next five years in five investment areas that include Student Success, Faculty Development, Research Excellence, Career Expansion and Community Engagement.

UMKC saw a decrease in enrollment during the pandemic, but it wasn’t drastic, according to Agrawal. He said the purpose of the new investments is attracting more students back to the school.

“We came to a place where we decided that we needed to stop thinking in terms of cuts and we needed to start thinking in terms of investments. The conversation had to change, you cannot cut your way to innovation and success,” Agrawal said.

The investments will include two new programs. One is called Professional Mobility Escalators, and is aimed at streamlining student’s education from their studies to future careers through professional training.

The other, Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, will also offer professional training and development to adult learners in the community.

An additional $5 million will be invested in new tenure and tenure-track faculty over the next three years.

Agrawal said the resources for these investments will come primarily from “realigning” the current budget, money from eventual increased enrollment, and by attracting new research grants and philanthropy.

None of the investment funding will result in any strategic or large-scale layoffs for faculty or staff, according to Agrawal. A UMKC spokesperson said no personnel reductions are specifically associated with the UMKC Forward plan.

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to clarify the distinction between the theatre M.A. and M.F.A program.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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