SRAP cuts tighten humanities, in line with national trend

The Strategic Resource Allocation Project (SRAP) has issued numerous budget-cutting and revenue-growing measures over the past year and a half. Some of the more controversial decisions include the elimination of the American Studies program and the cutting of many courses in humanities departments such as religion and classics. While SRAP has come under fire by students and faculty alike, the squeezing of the humanities is part of a larger regional and national trend.

18 universities and colleges across the nation have cut or reduced their arts and humanities programs, according to the College Art Association (CAA).

These cuts have followed a general downward trend in humanities bachelor degree completions in recent years. According to Humanities Indicators, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, “within the humanities, almost every discipline experienced a decline in the number of degrees awarded from 2012, the recent high point, to 2015.”

This recent decline is part of a broader trend, according to the same project.

“After 10 consecutive years of declines, the humanities’ share of all new bachelor’s degrees fell below 12% in 2015 for the first time since a complete accounting of humanities degree completions became possible in 1987,” Humanities Indicators wrote in a report.

This research done by Humanities Indicators was updated in May 2017.

Because of these trends, schools have looked to cut costs and maintain relevance in a shifting academic and professional market where more students are favoring STEM degrees that have higher rates of job placement and higher salaries, according to the Humanities Indicators report.

“Pressed by students, parents and legislators to save money and show the return on their high tuitions, universities are jettisoning entire liberal arts programs or staff in favor of majors perceived to lead more directly to jobs,” The Hechinger Report, an independent news organization which covers national education issues, wrote.

St. Olaf seems to be yet another school squeezing humanities programs and bolstering majors perceived to be more lucrative, following examples set by other upper midwest institutions such as University of Wisconsin – Superior, Concordia College and, most notably, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.

The University of Wisconsin – Superior suspended 25 programs in 2017, including nine majors, 15 minors and one graduate program, with many of the suspended majors being humanities. In February 2016, Concordia College stopped offering majors in French, German, Latin, classics and Scandinavian studies.

Most recently, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point approved a plan to eliminate 13 majors, including English, art, history, philosophy and foreign languages such as French and German, while adding new degrees in fields such as technology, engineering and business.

These shifts away from humanities are not only affecting liberal arts colleges or universities in the upper midwest – large universities across the country have announced cuts to their humanities programs. Examples of this include the University of Montana, which has ended its global humanities and religion majors and minors, and the University of Missouri, which cut 12 graduate programs in the humanities when faced with  budget shortfalls.

With the proposed changes to the humanities programs by SRAP, St. Olaf will become another institution to shift funding away from the humanities and toward STEM departments. While the budget reallocation at St. Olaf doesn’t reach the level of other institutions, the cuts are still a clear example of how St. Olaf is responding to these shifting trends.

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