ST. LOUIS — St. Louis University will stop offering a master’s degree in urban planning and development.
Sarah Coffin, associate professor at SLU and director of the urban planning and urban planning programsaid SLU was the latest university in the region to offer a master’s degree in planning.
“There are no planning programs, period, in the area now that ours is closing,” Coffin said.
The program was launched in 1998, and Coffin teaches many of the program’s courses with fellow instructor, Development Strategies co-founder Bob Lewis. Coffin said the university will retain a certificate in planning and allow students currently enrolled in the program to complete their degree, which takes three semesters for a full-time student.
With dozens of municipalities in the St. Louis area, many of which have their own planning department, the demand for planners is quite high here, Coffin said. That’s in addition to developers and other agencies also tending to hire people with planning degrees, she said.
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“Employers in the area are going to have to figure out how to recruit from other programs across the country and convince people to move to St. Louis, which isn’t always an easy thing to do,” Coffin said.
In addition to providing a pipeline for area employers, she said the program also gives students, even those who don’t stay, exposure to St. Louis-centric issues. The Tower Grove Farmers Market was a former student’s flagship project. Other students studied Kinloch issues in a joint class between the planning program and SLU’s law school.
She said SLU administrators decided to discontinue the program due to the low number of applicants. Part of the problem, she said, was that he had never received accreditation from national planning organizations.
About five people enter each year and three or four graduate, Coffin estimated. Only four students recently graduated, but all of them found jobs before they finished their courses: one by the East-West Gateway Council of GovernmentsOne by Trailnet, and one by St. Louis County. Another is a social studies teacher who is adding planning to the high school curriculum.
In a statement, SLU said the decision “was the result of a collaborative, inclusive and evaluative process.”
“The decision to close a program with low enrollment does not reflect the value of faculty and students in the program,” SLU said. “This program has served our students well, and the University is fully committed to helping current students complete their studies at SLU.”
St. Louis Alderman Tina Pihl, who was elected last year and often refers to her own planning degree, said “every big city” should have a planning program.
“Hopefully they can reconsider how important it is for this city,” Pihl said. “We are also at a tipping point for this city in terms of economic development and incentives.”
Last year, the University of Missouri-St. Louis cut his anthropology department, a doctorate in mathematics and suspended his doctoral program in political science. The University of Missouri-Columbia also cut many degrees in 2018.
“It’s a symptom of a bigger problem with higher education, it’s not just SLU,” Coffin said. “These little little programs all over the country are struggling.”
Posted at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 14.