If campus leaders want to cut programs, how can they do so without terminating departments and faculty? A potential answer comes from Ohio State University, where humanists argue that a new enrollment strategy discourages students from taking certain classes and majors.
Specifically, goes the argument, that strategy discourages first-year students from taking humanities classes and signing up for those majors.
Here’s some data:
English professor Alan Farmer, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics, crunched some numbers last fall. Based on university admissions reports, he found that, from 2010 to 2015, the number of humanities majors who paid admission fees had dropped by 49 percent, with yearly declines ranging from 6 percent to 20 percent. A new university enrollment plan took effect in 2010. Before that, from 2005 to 2010, the number had grown by 14 percent.
49% in just five years is a big, big drop. I wonder how much can be attributed to the recession.
University leaders don’t exactly disagree with the data:
[OSU’s vice president of enrollment services, Dolan] Evanovich, along with College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean David Manderscheid, said humanities faculty members aren’t doing as good a job as other departments in encouraging accepted students to actually enroll at Ohio State. The yield, or percentage of admitted students who decide to enroll, is more than 35 percent university-wide, but “in the 27 range” for the humanities…
So perhaps the drop is actually happening, but it’s the humanists’ fault.
If this decline is happening, why does it matter?
Fewer students taking humanities courses means fewer dollars, which could mean fewer course offerings, making it harder to attract good students and instructors — a death spiral.
A spiral which culminates in axing faculty, staff, and programs. Consider this a medium-term strategy for cutting back the humanities, if it’s true.
There’s more, a Two Cultures politics:
[Farmer] and others suspect other factors at work. They suggest political pressure in favor of STEM or a desire to boost Ohio State’s average ACT score by admitting lots of students with high math and science scores.
I don’t know OSU well enough to determine if Farmer’s argument has merit. It certainly sounds plausible, and the rationale is credible. Note that the linked article mentions financial stresses and cuts already in place:
A year ago, the [Arts and Sciences] college faced a $10 million deficit and department heads were blaming Manderscheid. Since then, a budget cut of about 3.5 percent and a large number of retirements…
If we accept that such a strategy is possible, is it in place at any other institutions?
(thanks to Roger Schonfeld for the link and Wikipedia for the OSU seal)