Universities across the country are dealing with the same issues of declining enrollment affecting Indiana Wesleyan University. But some feel the pressure more than others.
Specifically Anderson University.
Enrollment dropped 7 percent at AU this year, forcing several cutbacks in an attempt to save money. Among them, AU plans to cut 16 faculty and staff members and terminate its theatre, philosophy and French majors, according to a report by the Indianapolis Business Journal.
These actions will save the school $1.7 million dollars, according to the report.
“The pressures facing higher education are more extraordinary than at any time on our nearly 100-year history,” AU President Dr. James L. Edwards said to The Herald Bulletin.
Though IWU has not announced any major cutbacks in response to its 4 percent enrollment decline, faculty and staff are responding to the situation at AU.
IWU French professor Tuesday Edwards said it was “painful” to learn about AU’s actions.
“It was distressing to hear that Anderson was cutting [those majors],” she said. “Because theatre, art, music and language have been on the chopping block for years.”
Edwards said college administrations often wants to cut from one of those departments when a school has problems. She said she finds it strange to cut such programs at a college that focuses on liberal arts education.
“My main fear stemming from Anderson’s dropping some of those programs is that we are losing sight of really why we’re here and what we want to do,” she said.
AU President James Edwards said though AU is cancelling these specific majors and minors, the school will still offer classes for those departments.
President Edwards said one reason for cutting the programs is because fewer students pursue actual degrees in the subjects. For example, AU had only five theatre majors, according to a post from AU alumnus Cory Edwards on the “saveAUtheatre” group on Facebook.
At IWU, theatre professor Dr. Katie Wampler said the number of theatre majors has stayed relatively stable. For the past three years she’s taught at IWU, more than 20 students have majored in the theatre department every year.
French, on the other hand, is neither a major nor a minor at IWU.
As the university’s only French professor, Tuesday Edwards has been responsible for keeping the department strong. She teaches all four classes as an adjunct professor, and she spends much of her time trying to recruit students.
At one point, foreign language was a requirement for students of any major, she explained. Now, only certain degrees require it.
She fears that if liberal arts colleges continue to cut programs like foreign language and theatre, then they’ll adapt to the more mainstream, vocational college.
“Are we going to retain the idea, the spirit and the desire to be a liberally educated person and train up liberally educated world changers? Or are we just going to be another school?” she asked.
Though the university may not instate a French major or minor for another few years, the Division of Modern Language and Literature added a world languages minor this year to accompany those interested in taking French, Mandarin or multiple languages.
Students minoring in world languages choose a “language of emphasis” and have the option of taking classes of another language for elective credit.
Since both the French and Mandarin programs are not big enough to sustain a full degree, this new addition allows students to minor in French- or Mandarin-speaking abilities.
Edwards thinks this might be a step toward a French minor.
“I hope so. I really do,” she said. “I can see it happening. I mean, in my head I can see us offering that. I just don’t know. I don’t know when or how, but I can see it.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 25 percent of American four-year private colleges experienced a 10 percent or more decline in freshmen enrollment from 2010 to 2012. Many of these institutions are cutting key programs and staff as a result.
“Many institutions across academia will need to make these adjustments and those that don’t will continue to struggle,” AU President James Edwards said.
IWU hasn’t announced any program terminations on campus. Instead, it hopes to reverse the enrollment decline through measures aimed at recruiting and maintaining students.