The U of Maine System: Languages are essential, even if they are underenrolled

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The past couple of weeks I have been off the grid and in the Maine woods, living without electricity, on a lake, and like many of you, trying to detox from a long academic year.

One of our morning rituals is to get up and listen to Maine Public Radio early in the a.m. Imagine my delight when I heard this excerpt from a report about how The University of Maine System is coping with budget deficits and funding woes:

A third, and possibly more controversial, report comes from the system’s seven chief academic officers. It calls for reexamining courses with enrollment of 12 or fewer students, and degree programs with five or fewer graduates.

“The issue and the balance and the concern and the hard part is that most of these programs that we have identified are what we call essential programs that the state needs,” says Jim Breece, System’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

“They’re what we call STEM, the science, technology, engineering and math courses, and also the world language programs,” Breece says. “So in order for the state of Maine to be competitive in a global economy, we need more graduates in world languages and in the STEM disciplines. So we’re going to work with them, give them about three years, get them to grow their programs, seek more students, work collaboratively with other universities.”

Well how about that? Instead of trying to cut a program that has low attendance numbers, it looks as if some folks in higher ed are thinking about what matters for their students education (and for preparing them for life outside of the university) before jettisoning the program altogether.

Bravo!

(you can read the entire news story from Maine Public Radio here)

Barbara has been working for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for about 15 years. In addition to teaching Spanish she runs a somewhat unconventional language center. Prior to this adventure in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and watch the Red Sox. Preferably not all at once, although that could be interesting. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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