Maryland's Goucher College eliminating several majors, including math

Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past. Gone, too, will be physics majors, music majors and students in a range of subjects the school is eliminating from its offerings as part of a cost-cutting “academic revitalization” announced Wednesday.

“A small college can’t just keep adding majors,” president Jose Bowen said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun. “Sometimes we need to move resources from one to another and subtract too.”

The liberal arts school in Towson joins a growing number of institutions removing majors such as math and physics to save money. Seven Texas universities began eliminating their physics programs in 2010. The University of the District of Columbia cut 17 degree programs, including physics, five years ago.

Liberal arts colleges, in particular, have faced closures and cutbacks.

Bowen stressed in an email to alumni Wednesday that the school was not facing a financial crisis and recently received another A-minus bond rating by Standard & Poor’s. He said Goucher was committed to affordability, and that cutting the programs would help the school implement a tuition freeze announced last year.

Still, the announcement drew outrage from alumni who majored in the subjects to be eliminated.

Shana Lieberman, 34, graduated in 2006 with a degree in math.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Lieberman, 34. Though her cohort in the program was small, she said, “We were the little engine that could.”

She went on to earn a master’s degree in math.

Other majors to be cut include Russian studies, studio art, theater, religion, elementary education and special education. Minors to be phased out include book studies, German and Judaic studies.

Ben Lawrence, 33, said his math degree was crucial to his getting a job as a math teacher in Baltimore in difficult times.

“My math degree enabled me to weather the entire great recession really, really well,” he said. He was worried that future students wouldn’t have such opportunities.

Bowen said the cuts were approved by a team of faculty. He said they would allow the school to shift resources from majors with declining enrollment to those with increasing demand.

“Student interests change, partly in response to how the world changes,” Bowen wrote in his message to alumni. “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.”

At least one new major will be offered, in visual and material culture. Freshmen signed up for the 2018-19 academic year will still be able to enroll in the programs to be eliminated, and courses in math, physics and other subjects will still be offered.

Retired mathematics professor Robert Lewand said the elimination of majors in those fields will have a significant impact on the school’s identity.

“How could mathematics be on the cutting block?” he asked. “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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