Colleges across the country are taking drastic cost-saving measures to make up for huge budget deficits brought about by the pandemic.
Recently, this has included eliminating majors, merging departments, and laying off faculty and staff to make ends meet, according to a New York Times report.
Ohio Wesleyan University decimated roughly 20 percent of its liberal arts department earlier this month when it eliminated 18 majors, including comparative literature, dance, journalism, religion and urban studies. At the same time the university announced it would be consolidating a number of other areas of study: Black World Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies will combine to become “Critical Identity Studies,” for example.
About a thousand miles south, the University of Florida has eliminated its entire undergraduate programming, announcing that it would become graduate-only. In the Northeast, members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are moving forward with plans to take six small universities and turn them into two large ones.
But missing from the Times’ report, unsurprisingly, is any talk of making adjustments to tuition, when students are the ones who will feel these changes most acutely.
Students have been speaking out against tuition costs since April, when students were sent home en masse across the country, and instruction transitioned to being online-only. With another semester in full swing—and the majority of universities relying on some mix of virtual and in-person instruction—most tuition rates still haven’t budged. Meanwhile, many students are dealing with unemployment and insecure housing, while some can’t afford to return to campus at all.
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Caitlin Jefferson, a student at Ohio Wesleyan, tried to make sense of the path ahead for her at an institution that had eliminated her major. “There were a lot of factors deciding whether I wanted to come to this school, but I definitely planned to pursue a journalism major,” she told the outlet. “Getting halfway through college and finding out it’s no longer going to be available here is a little disappointing, for sure.”