#SLASSHE Retrenchments Demonstrate 2 Tier Higher Education System; Education for the Rich and Education for the Rest

Sadly, the story of Edinboro’s retrenchment plans have made it into the New York Times – even though it was just a blip in the story.  The Times‘ story talks about what is happening to humanities enrollments at elite and public higher education institutions around the country, and, frankly, the story highlights the two tier higher education system that is thriving in this country.  Our higher education system breaks down into two categories.  Education for the rich.  Education for the rest of us.

If you are rich – or fortunate enough to attend an elite university because of excellent academic reasons – then you have very little to worry about when it comes to keeping the humanities afloat.  The Times’ article mentions what is happening at some of the country’s elite universities like Stanford or Princeton University, and the article states:

They have generous compensation, stunning surroundings and access to the latest technology and techniques of scholarship. The only thing they lack is students: Some 45 percent of the faculty members in Stanford’s main undergraduate division are clustered in the humanities — but only 15 percent of the students.

With Stanford’s reputation in technology, it is no wonder that computer science is the university’s most popular major, and that there are no longer any humanities programs among the top five. But with the recession having helped turn college, in the popular view, into largely a tool for job preparation, administrators are concerned.


At elite universities, such departments are safe but wary. Harvard had a 20 percent decline in humanities majors over the last decade, a recent report found, and most students who say they intend to major in humanities end up in other fields. So the university is looking to reshape its first-year humanities courses to sustain student interest.

Princeton, in an effort to recruit more humanities students, offers a program for high school students with a strong demonstrated interest in humanities — an idea Stanford, too, adopted last year.

So you see where this is going.  If your university is an elite school and has the appropriate financial accommodations they’ll be doing what they can to keep these programs running – for now.

If you are working class and public higher education is your option because it’s affordable, you’re shit out of luck when it comes to preserving the arts, the humanities, the sciences and student services.  For an example of “education for the rest of us,” the Times picked up on what is happening at at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.  The article stated:

The concern that the humanities are being eclipsed by science goes far beyond Stanford.

At some public universities, where funding is eroding, humanities are being pared. In September, for example, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania announced that it was closing its sparsely populated degree programs in German, philosophy, and world languages and culture.

There you have it folks, just a fine example of how the quality of your education is affected when you have the financial means to attend elite academic institutions.

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About Sean Kitchen 681 Articles
Contributor and Assistant Editor for the Raging Chicken Press. Stationed in Harrisburg covering politics in the capitol. You can send tips to sean@rcpress.org or reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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