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Yet another article on budget cuts in the Humanities

Started by Langue_doc, November 03, 2023, 05:08:29 PM

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QuoteCan Humanities Survive the Budget Cuts?
After years of hand-wringing about their future, liberal arts departments now face the chopping block. At risk: French, German, American studies and women's studies.

The first few paragraphs of the article:
QuoteThe state auditor of Mississippi recently released an eight-page report suggesting that the state should invest more in college degree programs that could "improve the value they provide to both taxpayers and graduates."

That means state appropriations should focus more on engineering and business programs, said Shad White, the auditor, and less on liberal arts majors like anthropology, women's studies and German language and literature.

Those graduates not only earn less, Mr. White said, but they are also less likely to stay in Mississippi. More than 60 percent of anthropology graduates leave to find work, he said.

"If I were advising my kids, I would say first and foremost, you have to find a degree program that combines your passion with some sort of practical skill that the world actually needs," Mr. White said in an interview. (He has three small children, far from college age.)

For years, economists and more than a few worried parents have argued over whether a liberal arts degree is worth the price. The debate now seems to be over, and the answer is "no."

Not only are public officials, like Mr. White, questioning state support for the humanities, a growing number of universities, often aided by outside consultants, are now putting many cherished departments — art history, American studies — on the chopping block. They say they are facing headwinds, including students who are fleeing to majors more closely aligned to employment.

West Virginia University recently sent layoff notices to 76 people, including 32 tenured faculty members, as part of its decision to cut 28 academic programs — many in areas like languages, landscape architecture and the arts.

Several other public institutions have announced or proposed cuts to programs, largely in the humanities, including the University of Alaska, Eastern Kentucky University, North Dakota State University, Iowa State University and the University of Kansas, according to The Hechinger Report, an education journal.

Miami University, a public institution in Oxford, Ohio, with 20,000 students, is reappraising 18 undergraduate majors, each of which has fewer than 35 students enrolled, including French and German, American studies, art history, classical studies and religion.

Those departments are dwarfed by computer science, which has 600 students enrolled; finance, with 1,400; marketing, with 1,200; and nursing, with almost 700.

For the humanities faculty, "it's an existential crisis," Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix, provost of Miami University, said in an interview. "There's so much pressure about return on investment."

She said that she hoped that the subject matter, if not the majors, could be salvaged, perhaps by creating more interdisciplinary programs, like cybersecurity and philosophy.

The shift has been happening over decades. In 1970, education and combined social sciences and history degrees were the most popular majors, according to federal statistics.

Today, the most popular degree is business, at 19 percent of all bachelor's degrees, while social sciences trail far behind at just 8 percent of degrees.


Is the interdisciplinary degree cybersecurity and philosophy, or are those two different interdisciplinary degrees? 0_o

The combination of "value for hraduates" and "staying in Mississippi's could be a problem.
I know it's a genus.


This article covers a lot of examples that we've discussed here.

It talks about the low enrollment, but doesn't delve much in to why that critical driver is so prevalent. With some exceptions (eg Missisippi), the administration has no specific animus against humanities. They just don't want to maintain programs that aren't getting enrolment. The remedy is to increase enrolment, probably using techniques that are making the popular majors popular. Students interests and engagement have changed a lot in the last decade, so using assumptions, curriculum and recruiting pitches from back in the 'teens isn't going to improve the situation.

I'm worried more about the general disengagement we are seeing as an underlying driver for any intellecually challening program. It bodes ill for our society. Low enrolment in tough humaninties majors, or those that involve unfamiliar cultures, could well be a consequence.

My applied-science graduate progam was looking to increase enrolment from a notably underrepresented demographic. A little study made us realize that recruiting would need to start with high-school juniors, their parents and teachers. Even then, we'd need to engage several hundred to get a single qualified applicant ten years in the future. Humanites may need to offer Pre-K programs to nurture future undergrads, but would get a much higher yield.

Wahoo Redux

Yeah, a lot of us in the humanities are just hoping to be able to retire before the final axe falls.  Some majors, like creative writing or musical performance, may always have a small niche because those appeal to people riding out a passion for the subject, but even these will always be in danger because writers and musicians generally don't make a great deal of money.

Then there are the AI systems which will probably take over business, technical, and expository writing at some point in the near future.

The trend seems to be unstoppable, leaving the humanities clinging to a few wealthy, prestigious universities, and the prestige gap between Pigknuckle State U and the Ivies will grow even bigger----but this will be uninteresting to most students who think of education as job training.

I do predict, however, that the pendulum will swing sometime in the future, considering how society tends to reject old ideas and reforge older ideas as new ideas, and there will be a push to re-broaden and re-humanize higher education.  But it will come far too late for the current generation of professors and grad students.  Schools should start voluntarily shutting down their programs, except for Harvard and Columbia, for instance, and Stanford which will keep the flame kindling.

What is most interesting about the article is this comment by Shad White, the state auditor of Mississippi:

QuoteMore than 60 percent of anthropology graduates leave [Mississippi] to find work, he said.

So the point of higher ed in Mississippi is to keep the population local?  A kid who gets a degree and then goes out into the world is a bad thing?

Our society's thoughts about education are really, really screwy.  And its the colleges' fault: we have been advertising ourselves as career builders for generations as we keep raising the cost of an education.  People have seen this coming for some time but done nothing really except expand on the same.

The irony is that the article ends this way:

QuoteMr. White said he personally would have liked to play acoustic guitar for a living. But he doubted his chances for success, given the small number of jobs available.

Then he seemed to reconsider, conceding: "If you dig into the data, music majors do pretty well for whatever reason. They go to work at schools, they go to work at the university setting, or they work in churches."

So on reflection, he softened his message. "What I would tell students is, don't write off all of liberal arts," he said. "Don't write off all of the fine arts."

The dude writing off the liberal arts tells us not to write off the liberal arts after having abandoned his dream because he might not have made enough money, so he personally abandoned the liberal arts by following the herd.


Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.