Two university aviation programs are facing possible closure. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn. are considering shutting down their aviation degree programs due to economic concerns.
The University of Illinois is looking to transfer all aspects of the current Institute of Aviation to other departments, but those programs that other departments are unwilling to accept are facing closure. One program facing closure is aviation human factors, which offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The university is currently considering whether their existing flight training operation would be viable as a standalone. A decision is expected by the end of the fall semester and is expected to take effect before the spring semester. Currently the university’s flight school operates about 200 flights per day out of the University of Illinois-Willard Airport and currently has a budget of about $5 million funded by tuition and student fees. Shutting down the operation however, would only save the university a fraction of that amount.
St. Cloud State University is also looking at transferring or eliminating its aviation program. According to the department chair, they are hopeful that the business college at the university will accept the aviation program, which would allow for its continued operation. Due to budget cuts at a state level, the university is looking at every possible option to decrease expenditures, and the aviation program ran a deficit of more than a quarter of a million dollars in the last year.
These two flight training programs are not alone in their struggles. Over the last few years, aviation programs at many colleges and universities have come on hard times. Many have closed, while others, such as Embry-Riddle, are looking to expand. The difference is often size as many smaller programs lack the political and economic support required to keep them off the chopping block. It is important to note however, that many programs could be saved through strategic partnerships with stable flight training providers. Agreements like the recent Mountain State/ATP partnership would allow universities and colleges to focus on academics while allowing the flight schools to handle flight training operations.
Even though St. Cloud State and the University of Illinois program closures might not affect a great number of students, this is important news for any flight student to consider. During this time of economic unrest, many smaller programs face many outside pressures and the balance of power can shift quickly. That is why it is important to carefully consider how a particular flight training program fits into to your plans before you begin, but you should also consider having a backup plan just in case.