US College Scraps Math and Physics Majors for Unclear Reasons

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A Maryland college scrapped math and physics majors Wednesday to cut costs, but denied that it did so out of financial need.

Goucher College described its move to phase out math, physics, music, Russian studies, and four others as part of an “academic revitalization,” The Washington Post reported. The private school has slightly fewer than 1,500 students.

“A small college can’t just keep adding majors,” Goucher President Jose Bowen told The Baltimore Sun. “Sometimes we need to move resources from one to another and subtract too.”

The president reassured alumni that the school does not face financial ruin, citing an A-minus bond rating it received from Standard & Poor’s in a Wednesday email.

“Student interests change, partly in response to how the world changes,” Bowen said. “One-hundred years ago, Goucher (like most colleges) offered (or even required) Latin, Greek and theology courses, and there were no computer science or environmental studies courses.”

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Bowen said a faculty team approved the cuts and the plan would allow Goucher to transfer resources away from disciplines that had decreasing enrollments and toward those that were sparking more interest.

But alumni who obtained degrees in the majors to be eliminated, as well as other community members, were not appeased.

“How could mathematics be on the cutting block?” former Goucher math professor Robert Lewand said to The Post. “I don’t think Goucher can any longer be called a liberal arts college in the traditional sense of that term.”

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“My math degree enabled me to weather the entire Great Recession really, really well,” Goucher graduate Ben Lawrence said, noting that it his major enabled him to find a job as a Baltimore math teacher.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” fellow math graduate Shana Lieberman told The Post, noting that while her class did not have many math majors, “we were the little engine that could.”

The Maryland school is not the only one to cut STEM fields to save money. Seven Texas universities scrapped their physics programs from 2010 to 2018. Bachelor degrees in that field, as well as marketing, economic and finance, fell by the wayside at the University of the District of Columbia in 2013.

“The decision to phase out some majors and minors was not based exclusively on student interest,” Bowen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Internal Review Team also examined the overall health of the programs, reviewing both quantitative and qualitative data about each major and minor. … We did not look at salary data for jobs in various fields.”

“Thirty three academic majors were too many to be sustained by a college the size of Goucher,” the president noted. “By phasing out the least viable programs, we will be able to strengthen the 25 that remain and invest in new programs that are in line with evolving student interests. We believe this is an opportunity for existing programs to come together in new configurations that speak in exciting ways to Goucher College’s ideals of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and international studies.”

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