In defending his proposal to cut Wisconsin’s higher education budget by $300 million over two years, Governor Scott Walker admonished professors to “work harder”.
“Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work and this authority frees up the [University of Wisconsin] administration to make those sorts of requests,” …
Maybe he should have focused more on administrative costs, which have far outpaced instructional costs in American universities.
But now comes word from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank “that the cuts would come in the form of layoffs of administrative personnel”.
Deans, directors and department heads will be responsible for making decisions on how budget cuts are allocated, but administrative units will take will take larger cuts in an effort to preserve educational functions, she said.
It seems that common sense may prevail, but concern remains that the governor and possible presidential candidate may be trying to kill liberal arts education.
Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”
Walker later backtracked and ‘blamed the changes on a last-minute “drafting error”‘. But skeptics remain suspicious that liberal arts will increasingly take a back seat to vocational programs.
Liberal-arts and humanities programs at public universities are increasingly under siege as state legislatures cut the institutions’ funding, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions about what to eliminate. The obvious targets are the programs that yield a lower return on investment—at least in a concrete, monetary sense—and are more nebulous in their impact on the economy. What sounds like it has more dollar signs and productivity attached to it: philosophy or America’s favorite new acronym, STEM?
Maybe these critics should also focus on New York’s Democratic Governor Cuomo, who has pushed for increased funding of vocational programs in state colleges, and incentivized partnerships between business and schools that promote workforce training through his START-UP NY initiative. Cuomo also established a STEM scholarship program last year.
I have not heard of any states pouring additional resources into liberal arts higher education. Which may be a shame, but is understandable.
This workforce-centric approach “is designed for short-term learning and long-term disaster.”
The problem is that, unlike most STEM fields, universities have lowered standards for liberal arts education.
In theory, a college liberal arts degree is a valuable commodity in the job market. In reality, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market.
So the question is, who is actually trying to kill liberal arts education?
Lucy McCalmont, “Scott Walker urges professors to work harder”, Politico, January 29, 2015.
Ann Althouse, “How will the University of Wisconsin—Madison absorb something like $90 million in cuts from Scott Walker’s new budget?”, Althouse, February 12, 2015.
Alia Wongfeb, “The Governor Who (Maybe) Tried to Kill Liberal-Arts Education”, Atlantic, February 11, 2015.