Goucher Cutting Majors Including Math and Physics

Goucher is eliminating 9 majors including Elementary and Special Education, Math and Physics but keeping Peace Studies


Goucher: No longer a College that Changes Lives.

Yup- read it here https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/08/17/goucher-college-says-its-eliminating-liberal-arts-programs-such-math-physics-and?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=e04f10c3ed-DNU_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-e04f10c3ed-198171250&mc_cid=e04f10c3ed&mc_eid=92c29ca1ec. Very very disappointing

Cutting out math and physics? What kind of college is it without math and physics?

August 15, 2018
Academic Update

Dear Goucher Parents,

We are excitedly awaiting the arrival of your student to campus within the next week and are looking forward to an exciting year for our community. As many of you know, Goucher College is experiencing a period of great change. We have three new buildings opening this fall, designed with student success and engagement in mind. At the same time, like many of our peer institutions, Goucher has engaged in a program prioritization process to strengthen the entire academic program and support the evolving interests of our students. Last fall we launched an innovative and highly-praised new general education curriculum and this fall we will continue that process by looking at how we can enhance some majors, reconfigure or create other majors, and gradually phase out others. All returning students, as well as those starting in Fall 2018, will be able to graduate from Goucher with a degree in any of the majors we currently offer. When students arrive on campus, faculty and staff will be available to answer questions, address concerns, and advise, but the choice and completion of your students’ major should NOT be impacted by this process. These changes are part of our continued strategy to prioritize the student experience.

It was a very difficult decision to reduce our number of majors, but we started by looking at the majors students said they wanted and the majors they actually completed. A large group of faculty met extensively throughout the summer to look at data on which courses had waiting lists and which were chronically undersubscribed. It was determined that we were offering some large, over-crowded majors where we need more faculty and courses, and other majors where student interest had waned and classes were routinely being cancelled because too few students had signed up.

Program prioritization in response to student interests and needs is a routine part of the life of any college. Student interests change, partly in response to how the world changes. One hundred years ago, Goucher (like most colleges) offered (or even required) Latin, Greek, and Theology courses and there were no computer science or environmental studies courses. German was the most popular modern language and virtually no institution offered Arabic or Chinese. The English major was still relatively new.

We will be investing in some of our largest majors and reconfiguring others. Also, faculty are already working on new interdisciplinary combinations that might be created both to be more appealing to students and to leverage our continuing expertise in social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and international studies, for which Goucher is so well-known. An example of this positive and well-received evolutionary change was the decision to modify the general education requirement from “math” to “data-analytics.” In the coming months, students will be asked about what new interdisciplinary and more customized programs we might add, and for feedback on proposals being developed.

A college education in the United States now costs more than the vast majority of families can afford to pay. Goucher’s ongoing commitment to access and affordability has meant that over the past several years we have steadily lowered the amount students actually pay. This has been accomplished through increases in financial aid offered to students and last year’s bold decision to become one of the very few colleges ever to have frozen tuition.

To continue to make a Goucher education more affordable, we must continue to lower our costs. Over the past four years, cuts were made in administrative, faculty, and staff costs, and by using new technology to save money, we were able to cut the operating budget several years in a row. In keeping with our student-focused strategy, we chose not to reduce student support services, and we have, in fact, added our Center for Race, Equity, and Identity, the Office of Accessibility Services, and enhanced the Student Support and Outreach Office (formerly case management), and continue to add student programming. This fall we will introduce a new Wellness and Recreation program, and also move the Student Counseling Center to a new, larger, and vastly-improved space on campus.

Despite many competitors shifting away from a traditional liberal arts model, Goucher remains almost uniquely committed to being a modern liberal arts college. We have long resisted the temptation to adopt more of the vocational programs currently in vogue with segments of the American public. Any new programs we offer will be interdisciplinary and in the liberal arts tradition. We have chosen this path carefully and strategically.

As a liberal arts college, we will continue to offer robust math and physics courses to prepare students for careers in science, computer science, and medicine, but very few students were interested in them as stand-alone majors. Our plans for a new Science Research Center addition to Hoffberger will continue and, in 2019, we will begin construction of much-needed new lab space for biology, chemistry, and environmental science.

The arts will also continue to be an essential pillar of the liberal arts at Goucher. The vast majority of the students who participate in theater, music, and art activities on our campus, in classes, performances, exhibitions, and in concerts, do not actually major in those fields. We may even add more activities, opportunities, and ensembles, based upon student interest. Dance is one of the largest majors on campus, and we have recently seen increased interest in film, digital art, and creative writing. Our performing and creative arts departments are also already working on programming that will be both more interdisciplinary and more individualized to student needs. Many recent graduates designed their own individualized majors in these fields, and we will continue to offer that option and respond to changing student needs with new programs.

Again, ALL current and incoming first year students will be able to graduate from Goucher with their intended major. Still, we know some will be disappointed. I am truly sorry for the consequences of these necessary decisions. We will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum, but it is imperative that resources are allocated in ways that best support as many students as possible. There is no financial crisis; in fact, after a very thorough review this summer, the Standard and Poors (S&P) retained its “A-“ bond rating for Goucher. Raising costs and continuing to increase the number of options per student, however, is no longer a possibility. We are determined to offer the best education for a price more people can afford.

A detailed list of future program changes can be found here: this will be updated as new configurations are considered. A list of FAQs can be found here. If you have questions that cannot be answered on the webpage, please email: academicrevitalization@goucher.edu.

I am confident that we are moving forward in a positive direction for the College, and thank you for your patience and support during this time.


President, Goucher College

My S19 was very interested in applying to Goucher for numerous reasons. His intended major and minor are not on the list of cuts. It is important to keep in mind they are not getting rid of math and physics and theater courses, just the majors. I am trying to sort out my feelings about this here:

On the one hand, some of the majors/minors being cut had 2 grads per year, so I can see why those would be hard to sustain. This is a very small school and I get why it can’t be all things to all people. If they are attracting students more interested in Biology (apparently a popular major) than Physics I can see why they would focus on Biology. It appears this president wants to transition to more interdisciplinary paths of study, and while it is indeed strange to have a school with no Math or Physics major, there are plenty of other schools that have those if that is what you want. It doesn’t appear Goucher students wanted them. Kids at CalTech probably don’t want or need a Dance major like they have at Goucher.

On the other hand, my main concern for him at this moment is not that he wouldn’t get a good education at Goucher in his intended major (because the majors that are left will hopefully get more attention?), but rather that this decision by the school will tank its overall reputation. There are a lot of negative comments out there.

I am really conflicted about whether he should still apply.

I have no problem with this decision. Why does a college NEED to offer math and physics majors? If that’s your interest, then go apply to a school that has that. Just like your dance analogy. And I highly doubt any future employer of a Goucher grad would say “sorry, we don’t want you and your Sociology degree because your college didn’t offer a math major”. When I was hiring recent grads, I could give a rats ass about degrees the the applicant didn’t have.

https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=goucher&s=all&id=162654#programs indicates in 2016-2017, the number of graduates in some majors being cut was:

9 art
8 math
4 music
3 religion
1 Russian
9 physics
8 theater

With respect to math, Goucher’s upper level offerings are already very minimal and probably inadequate for many math majors: https://www.goucher.edu/learn/undergraduate-programs/mathematics/courses (inclusion of some courses ordinarily listed as statistics or computer science makes it look like a larger number than it is). Upper level physics offerings may also be considered inadequate for a physics major who may consider graduate school in physics: https://www.goucher.edu/learn/undergraduate-programs/physics/courses . I.e. it may seem like a shock to eliminate those two majors, but the state of those two majors at Goucher is already at the point that Goucher is unattractive to a prospective student considering those majors.

Note that University of Akron is also eliminating math and physics as majors: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2018/08/16/u-akron-cuts-80-degree-tracks

Why should schools try to offer every major when they may do a better job on the majors they do offer by tightening up departments and majors? Make room for new majors, adjust to the target audience.

When we were looking at schools, many were eliminated because they were just too small in the departments my kids were interested in. Only 5 physics professors and maybe 7 in the math department? That’s just not enough for a 3+2 engineering degree (and we quickly dropped the idea of a 3+2 degree because the ‘3’ never seemed to offer enough).

Math technically will be folded under “data analytics” which sounds like applied math.
Physics will remain but it sounds like they’ll be integrated into interdisciplinary science majors such as environmental science. It’ll probably also remain for pre-meds.

It doesn’t. Indeed, it may be more “honest” not to offer the majors than to offer them inadequately, as appeared to be the case for Goucher math and physics just before.

Of course, lower level math and physics courses will remain as service courses for biology majors, pre-meds, etc… (But that may be demoralizing for math and physics faculty, though they may already be demoralized seeing hardly any students interested in those majors.)

The place I went to undergrad considered eliminating the undergraduate physics and philosophy majors a few years ago. Each major was only graduating 1 or 2 students per year. Ultimately, they kept the physics major, partly because the graduate physics program is relatively large, highly-regarded, and there was a lot of push-back from the physics department. The philosophy major was closed down for the time being. The philosophy department didn’t have the power that the physics department had. There are still undergraduate philosophy classes, and they’re saying the philosophy major may be restarted if the school gets more money.

We tell our students to “play to their strengths.” Why shouldn’t colleges do the same? It doesn’t need to be all things to all students, and many that try fail miserably anyway.

If you want a STEM major, attend a STEM focused school, if you want a liberal arts-focused education, attend an LAC, if you want a bit of both, either attend a university, or find a school that is part of consortium that offers the classes that interest you. If they are only graduating a small handful of students in these majors, then there is most likely little demand for the upper level classes in these departments. Smaller classes can be good, but there is a point of diminishing returns. If there is a vibrant graduate program, then perhaps an undergraduate program is sustainable, but otherwise, focus on what you can do well. They might take a small hit to their reputation short-term, but hopefully this will be seen as a smart move.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it also looks like they are disbanding the Theater department. This school was recommended by our college advisor because of the “strong” department. While I agree with much of what I’ve read of the president’s statement and the sentiments outlined here (that Math and Physics really draw a particular kind of student who may not be that well served at a school this size), the fact is they are also jettisoning some of the majors that LACs are so well known for. Not sure what “strength” the school is now playing to. Looks like Goucher is off the list for us if this is true.

Theater dept being cut is weird since it’s one they’re well known for.

However, Goucher no longer offers majors in two core liberal arts fields, mathematics and physics.

For anyone interested, the college is holding a number of events to discuss these changes. They met with students Monday night, are having a dinner for alums tonight (which I believe will be livestreamed/ recorded) and tomorrow there is an event for parents:



Does anyone care to expand on this? I can imagine situations where an advanced student needs graduate level courses. Other than that, what is it about a math/physics student that would not be well-served by a Goucher-sized school?

Math and foreign language are sequential. So, if you start reasonably or exceptionally advanced in her subject, you start at half or higher in the sequence offered by a college you run out of courses to take after Sophomore year.

To be fair to Goucher, they’ll still offer a math major, but no longer a pure math major - it’ll be an applied math major, presumably they cause rhyvhooe more students will take it up if it’s not called *math"???