Are Arts Degree Programs Getting Kicked to the Curb?

Are colleges picking on students who hope to earn an art degree.

It sure looks like it, if you believe an article in The New York Times that suggests that schools of fines arts, theater and dance are under siege.

During this recession, I doubt that any university is considering closing down its engineering or business school, but departments that attract painters, dancers, singers and sculptors are vulnerable. Chemical engineering is a must, but grooming the next Meryl Streep for an Academy Award doesn’t seem to be a pressing priority.

A slew of universities, according to The New York Times, are shuttering their art department or scaling it back. The schools include Washington State University, Florida State University and the University of Arizona. UCLA, however, was the university that caught my attention. Get this — UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture might have to resort to holding bake sales!

Academic departments from economics to nursing are absorbing cuts, but administrators who talked to The Times observed that arts programs could be getting hit harder. One reason is because faculty that teach in arts departments are often working artists and not tenured professors. Also, it’s harder to simply stuff more students in many art classes because they aren’t taught in lecture halls. Imagine learning how to use oil paint or play the jazz guitar in a class of 500 kids. It ain’t going to happen.

So what do you do if your child is an aspiring opera singer or classical pianist? Before making any decisions about a school, ask what kind of cuts the art departments are experiencing.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com.

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