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Western Carolina University is grappling with whether to cut unpopular or obsolete majors, posing a conundrum as it and other universities examine their deeper role in society: to provide a well-rounded, liberal arts education or steer students toward degrees in promising career fields?
The curriculum at Western Carolina University is fluid — every year, degrees are added and subtracted from its list of offerings to meet shifts in student demand.
Usually, only a few change. Since 2009, WCU has eliminated 17 degrees and added four.
But this year, in an attempt to refocus its academic mission, a WCU task force undertook a comprehensive review of all 130 of its degrees. The committee marked some as virile and others as deficient. The vast majority ranked somewhere in the middle.
“It is a huge undertaking,” said Mark Lord, WCU’s acting provost and a geology professor.
The task force marked the degrees the university should invest more money in, leave as it, consider revamping or cut.
“We had a range of possibilities throughout our process,” said Vicki Szebo, co-chair of the task force and an associate professor of history. “We had no idea if we were going to recommend any discontinuations from the outset.”
However, the task force recommended that the unlucky 13 that ranked lowest on its scale be cut. Among them are the women’s studies minor, the master’s degrees in music and music education, the German and Spanish majors, and the bachelor’s degree in motion picture and television production.
While the departments won’t disappear — there may still be classes — there simply won’t be majors or masters.