Sunday, August 20, 2023

The decline of the public university

I'm going to point you to an article by Lisa Corrigan who writes about the recent "restructuring" of West Virginia University, and what it means for the rest of us who work in public colleges and universities, whether flagship institutions, or regional colleges and universities (like me). WVU's administrators hired a consulting firm to determine programs to put on the chopping block, and it is doing away with quite a number of majors, including all of its majors in the languages. About 16% of its faculty will be laid off in the process. I write this as my university is doing a program viability study, and I worry about what the outcome of its recommendations will be. 

If you want a more tl:dr version, Dr. Corrigan posted a thread on the platform formerly known as Twitter:

The enrollment cliff has been used as a cudgel for much of my professional career - at least since the Great Recession came and went. What I suspect will happen is what Dr. Corrigan says quite bluntly: we will end up with a two-tiered higher education situation where the privileged will have more opportunities to enrich themselves intellectually, and the rest of our students, especially in rural public universities will just have to get used to fewer options. After all, workforce development is the big buzzword these days. We'll also see a future in which institutions operate with fewer full-time faculty, with the ensuing decline in quality that comes with understaffed programs. This was not the future I wanted for our next cohorts of students. Unless there is a huge fuss made regarding adequate funding for our institutions and a move back to ensuring academic freedom that is untouched by legislators, this is the future that awaits. It is bleak.