Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Most Common Department Cuts Colleges Are Making

Department chairs probably jump every time the provost walks by. With money tight, rare is the college that hasn’t had to do some significant belt-tightening, and many faculty members are no doubt wondering if their department will be the next to go. While some schools are experimenting with creative cost-cutting measures like outsourcing campus police or getting rid of landlines, some have had to make the difficult decision to strike at the heart of their own academic infrastructures. These eight departments are the ones that most commonly end up under the knife.

  1. Computer Science

    The IT field is regularly placed at or near the top of lists of job categories that will be doing the most hiring in 2012. As just one example, recently named software engineers and web developers as the hardest jobs for companies to find employees in in 2012. As in, the demand outstrips the supply. That’s why it’s so bizarre that computer science departments are commonly being defunded or closed altogether. The University of Florida is the most recent school to nix its CS department. The same has been done around the country at schools in Washington, Colorado, Michigan, and Texas. Said one CS department chair, “It is absolutely insane for state-funded universities to be considering terminating what’s the highest demand area across any discipline.”

  2. Physics

    Colleges target physics departments for budget cuts so often the American Physical Society created a handy little how-to guide to help chairs and faculty make their case for saving themselves. Low enrollment in the major is a rampant problem. In Texas, the Higher Education Coordinating Board began targeting all majors that fail to graduate 25 students in five years, a standard which the APS says nearly 70% of the country’s physics programs would fail. Seven physics programs at public schools in the Lone Star State may be cut, and four more put on probation. Northwestern State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Missouri State University, and North Arizona State University all cut some form of physics majors in 2010. City College in San Francisco cut individual physics classes and labs. Other schools have been merging physics with other departments as a way to avoid dismantling the department entirely.

  3. Engineering

    Although historically seen as one of the most stable careers, thousands of engineers lost their jobs in the recession. High schoolers must have taken notice, because engineering majors have declined in number at many schools, branding the departments with the dreaded “underperforming” mark and putting them on the chopping block. In April 2011, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln killed the only industrial engineering degree program in the Cornhusker State. The very same day five hours north, South Dakota State was announcing a plan to do away with bachelor’s degrees in engineering physics, electronics engineering technology, and manufacturing engineering technology. Three months later, UC Davis shuttered its department of applied science in the College of Engineering. And just like with IT, there’s now a shortage of engineers.

  4. Arts

    Poor art; it always seems to be in somebody’s sights. One day it’s busybody neighbors trying to get pants put on Michelangelo’s David; the next it’s Newt Gingrich trying to cut off funding for public broadcasting, one of the biggest purveyors of fine arts in America. So it’s no surprise when cash-strapped school administrators come knocking at the arts colleges. Georgia schools like University of Georgia, North Georgia College & State University, and Gordon College all lost either individual programs or entire departments in music and theater. Liberal arts programs at the University of Texas had to start pooling resources after severe budget cuts in 2011. Similar reductions have gone on at UNC and the University of Florida in recent months, with the latter firing faculty, freezing hiring, and reducing admissions.

  5. Phys Ed

    Given the rate of obesity in America, one might think a college with its students’ general well-being in mind would not want to de-emphasize the importance of exercise and physical fitness. But with money as tight as it is, the bean counters looking at the numbers don’t see a health issue; they see programs that are extremely expensive to operate. Thus, schools across the country are cutting their fat by targeting PE. At Barnard, officials recently decided one required PE class was sufficient to keep students informed on wellness, instead of two (or six, as the requirement stood 30 years ago). Western Washington University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison also announced this spring that they would be canceling some phys ed classes, 12 at the former and 29 at the latter.

  6. Athletics

    Although the major college teams bring in tens of millions of dollars from alumni, ticket sales, merchandising, TV rights, and more, at some smaller schools, athletic programs can actually be a drain on a school’s finances. Despite an 11-0 record and a conference championship, the football program at Grand Rapids Community College was dissolved, its $250,000 operating budget deemed too high. Solano Community College in Fairfield, California also nixed its football team, plus its aquatics program. Money woes also forced administrators at the University of Maryland, College Park to take the major step of eliminating eight sports teams, including men’s tennis, women’s swimming, and track.

  7. Languages

    We’d better hope the whole world learns to speak English, because soon we may not be turning out any graduates who can speak anything else. Foreign language classes and degrees are disappearing from universities en masse: French and German at Angelo State in Texas. Filipino at City College in San Francisco. French, German, and Russian at the University of Northern Iowa. American Sign Language, Italian, and Japanese at San Mateo Community College. French at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. The loss of French at Fort Lewis left Spanish as the sole foreign language class taught at the school, and even it only has three professors left in the department.

  8. Graduate programs

    People who got their bachelor’s degree in the last few years may have been able to get through undergrad without running into significant budget cuts in their respective departments, but they may not be so lucky in grad school. In the last year, school administrators seem to have shifted their gaze up a level to graduate studies as a potential area of savings. In November, the University of Minnesota did away with its English as a Second Language master’s degree. Angelo State cut its master’s degrees in history and multi/interdisciplinary studies. (Frankly, they did those kids a favor.) Fayetteville State University has cut two graduate programs of late. Chico State is the latest school to follow suit, sacrificing its geography and planning graduate program.

Taken From Online Colleges

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