In what Goucher College has dubbed an “academic revitalization,” the Towson liberal arts institution is eliminating a half-dozen programs in which students can major or minor—including in music, mathematics, physics, and elementary and special education, among others—as well as paths of study for arts, languages and religion.
The combined majors and minors being eliminated include the above, plus religion and Russian studies. The college is also getting rid of its theater and studio art majors, and its minors or concentrations in book studies, German and Judaic studies.
The announced changes will apply to students entering after the incoming freshman class, meaning those currently enrolled or set to enroll this fall in any of those programs can continue as they planned. But starting in 2019, those study options will be phased out.
“As student needs have shifted, we need to respond by shifting our priorities as well,” an FAQ page on Goucher College’s website says. “That means new investments in some programs, the addition of new programs, and the phasing out of majors and minors that have seen falling enrollment.”
In a more elaborative message posted on Goucher College’s website, president Jose Bowen said “it was a very difficult decision to reduce our number of majors,” but that it’s based on data for student demand and completion of majors, as well as course wait lists and under-enrollment.
“It was determined that we were offering some large, over-crowded majors where we need more faculty and courses, and other majors where student interest had waned and classes were routinely being cancelled because too few students had signed up,” he wrote.
He also likened the shift to one that took place a century ago: “Goucher (like most colleges) offered (or even required) Latin, Greek, and Theology courses and there were no computer science or environmental studies courses. German was the most popular modern language and virtually no institution offered Arabic or Chinese. The English major was still relatively new.”
Nevertheless, some alumni have been taken aback by the erasure of what they argue are core study paths from the curriculum.
the top Mathematics programs across the world. There was never a commitment to us. Even when we were growing, there was no commitment whatsoever. What a sad, pathetic policy way to destroy education at what was once a fine institution.
— Math Goddess (@shayz0rz) August 15, 2018
Wow, @gouchercollege. You're equating the evolution of higher education to dropping elementary education, math, music, theater, art, religion, and even more majors and minors? How exactly does this make you a more competitive liberal arts institution? pic.twitter.com/LS9nS2xbWg
— Johanna Goldberg (@JohannaEG) August 15, 2018
Goucher: "…[give] students a complete toolbox so they will be prepared for complex problems."
Also Goucher: *Thanos-snaps away Math, Physics, Arts, Education, Religion" to compete better in free market@gouchercollege Please help me resolve this. I'm missing something maybe? pic.twitter.com/Q4sFCUNOoF
— Evan Perlman (@EverydayInquiry) August 15, 2018
I'll add here that I'm a @gouchercollege alumn, and the math degree that I earned ensured that I was employed throughout the entirety of the Great Recession.
— Ben Lawrence ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@BLawrence42) August 15, 2018
A faculty member whose department is being eliminated noted in an email that it “was necessary” for Goucher “to cut or significantly modify some programs that had very low enrollment,” but added, “the depth of the cuts was shocking and I worry that we have cut too deeply.”
The professor, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution from the college, said their department learned of the changes last week.
“These recommendations were made by faculty with some administrative input. Many of the faculty that were part of this process were in programs that were most deeply impacted.”
Goucher College spokeswoman Stephanie Coldren said in an email Wednesday night that it’s unclear how many faculty members will lose their jobs, but suggested it could be “a very small number. It might be none.”
“At this point we are anticipating that retirements, voluntary separations (or people who leave for another position) and changes in non-tenure track faculty or visiting positions will be enough to align the areas of faculty expertise with student interest,” she said.
Bowen’s letter says Goucher “will continue to offer robust math and physics courses to prepare students for careers in science, computer science, and medicine, but very few students were interested in them as stand-alone majors.”
Similarly, he said “the arts will also continue to be an essential pillar” at the school, but “the vast majority of the students who participate in theater, music, and art activities on our campus, in classes, performances, exhibitions, and in concerts, do not actually major in those fields.”
Goucher this spring announced its $100 million “Undaunted” capital campaign, the largest in the school’s history, with plans to renovate one of its residence halls and its Science Research Center, and build new athletic facilities like centers for equine education, tennis and fitness and pilates, among other changes.
In an unrelated move over two years, the college opted not to raise tuition for the 2017-18 school year for the first time in its more than 130-year history, and raised it by only $406 per semester for 2018-19.
“There is no financial crisis,” Bowen wrote toward the end of his letter, noting the school has maintained an “A-” bond rating with Standard and Poors, which assesses credit quality of bonds. “Raising costs and continuing to increase the number of options per student, however, is no longer a possibility. We are determined to offer the best education for a price more people can afford.”
Asked whether they thought there could have been an alternative to cutting programs while addressing Goucher’s finances, the professor said that’s a “difficult question,” and that they are “not privy to the details of our budget and the severity of our financial situation.”
However, they added, “I do believe that if we had gone through this process a few years ago these changes would not be as drastic and damaging as they are now.”
This story has been updated.
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