Controversy follows UW-Stevens Point decision to cut Humanities programs

Mark Sommerhauser:

The proposal also reignited questions about the value of higher education in an era of skyrocketing student debt and questions about U.S. worker productivity: Should universities cultivate niche specialties of academic subjects or offer a broad array of them? Should they teach students skills tied to specific occupations, or widen students’ worldview while honing broad skills of analysis, creativity and communication?

Critics say UW-Stevens Point is placing its bets on the first answers to both questions — at the risk of undermining educational quality and access.

Some, such as state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, say it’s part of a broader effort by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker to transform the UW System.

Noel Radomski, who directs the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education at UW-Madison, said the plan could hurt the university’s reputation and hamper student and faculty recruitment. Few other universities that faced budget deficits took similar steps, he said, and for good reason.