UF economics department makes the switch to liberal arts on July 1


Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 20, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.

The economics department at the Warrington College of Business Administration will be no more as of July 1.

Instead, it will be a department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — even though it won’t physically move out of its current space at Matherly Hall.

Provost Joe Glover said the move “opens a host of opportunities” for both the college and the department.

Talks began in 2011 to move the department to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences but hit a snag when faculty voted against the move, afraid they were not going to receive the same level of support they enjoyed at the business college.

“We have assured the faculty members that they will receive the same support in CLAS that they did in WCBA,” said Paul D’Anieri, the outgoing dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “All the faculty (and staff) in the unit are due to come over … on July 1.”

The move was intended to preserve the doctoral program and maintain a high-quality undergraduate economics program in liberal arts, D’Anieri said.

“We intend to revive the Ph.D. program but do not have detailed plans yet in place,” he said.

Moving to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is in the best interest of the university to have a robust economics department, especially since it interacts with so many other disciplines, including law, education, sociology and political science, said Roger Blair, the economics department chair.

The move puts UF in the company of University of Texas at Austin, a top-ranked public research institution also in the 62-member Association of American Universities. Economics is the largest department in UT’s College of Liberal Arts. Penn State’s economics department is also part of its liberal arts college.

Despite being a popular major with close to 700 enrolled students, the economics department suffered budget cuts imposed by the Florida Legislature during the past five years of economic downturn in Florida, and by the performance-based budgeting formula known as “responsibility-centered management,” business college dean John Kraft said.

Each college and department gets money based on student enrollment, the number of graduates produced and other factors. The business college produces 2,100 degrees a year, Kraft said, and the economics department produces 70. By contrast, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences produces 200 economics degrees, he said.

Under the central administration’s formula, the business college gets less money per credit hour than the college of liberal arts for each student enrolled in economics courses. And about 300 economics majors are enrolled through the liberal arts college.

As a result, the economics department is operating at a $2.5 million annual deficit, forcing the business college to cut positions. From 1990 to 2013, full-time tenured faculty in the economics department fell from 38 to 11 with an average age of 63. No faculty has been hired since 2005.

To finance the transfer, the budget for the economics department is being transferred from business to the liberal arts college through the Responsibility Center Management budgeting process through central administration, Glover said.

The deal now, in essence, is that CLAS will receive the RCM revenue for the economics student credit hours at the CLAS rate, D’Anieri explained. “Because the CLAS weighting is higher than that in business, that will result in roughly $1.5 million in additional revenue that can be invested in the department,” he said.

The deal voted down by faculty two years ago would have transferred $4 million from the business college to the liberal arts college.

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