“Lack of Potential for Growth”: Marymount University to Cut Degrees in Theology, Math, History, and Other Core Degrees

Marymount University has long followed the motto of Tua Luce Dirige, or “Direct Us by Thy Light” as a Catholic university. However, studying the meaning of that light will now have to be done on your own time if you want a degree on some subjects. Marymount is moving to cut theology and religious studies as well as a host of other traditional subjects like philosophy, mathematics, art, history, sociology, English, economics, and secondary education as degree subjects. All of these subjects, according to the university and its President Irma Becerra, “lack of potential for growth.”

It is entirely unclear what Becerra views as “growth potential” after gutting these core degree but Marymount may sever its connections to traditional liberal arts education. It is important to note that these changes involve the elimination of the degrees rather than the elimination any courses on these subjects.

Becerra stated “Over the long term, it would be irresponsible to sustain majors [and] programs with consistently low enrollment, low graduation rates, and lack of potential for growth. Recommendations and decisions on programs marked for elimination are based on clear evidence of student choices and behavior over time.”

There is a host of problems with that statement. First, student choices are not the guide for universities on core academic standards. Universities are places where students come to be educated, not dictate the meaning of education. While we try to work with students to make available courses that reflect contemporary interests, we generally do not carve up the core curriculum to meet consumer demand. Second, low graduation rates are a problem in the school’s admission and educational programs. Solving low graduation rates by eliminating whole core subjects is like solving a low attendance rates at church by eliminating Sunday services.

Third, and most worrisome, the rejection of the core curriculum for lack of potential growth is the rejection of the model of a liberal education. I was fortunate to attend the University of Chicago, which was a pioneer in the “core curriculum.” It was based on the main building blocks of education around subjects like history, math, and English. Marymount is instead following the market and risks becoming just another overpriced trade school.

Rather than make the difficult choices to be more competitive as a liberal arts university, Marymount appears to be jettisoning core degrees to play the market. It is a form of academic self-mutilation that cuts away the very degrees that define a liberal arts university. In fairness to the university, it must survive to offer any educational program. That will often require trimming programs and staff. However, it would seem possible to make efficient choices on course offerings and faculty without eliminating so many core subjects for degrees.

The problem is not the obvious irony of eliminating theology degrees at a university that once prayed for God to “Direct Us by Thy Light.” The problem is the university is reinventing itself in a new image, but is offering no vision of what that image entails beyond what the market will bear. It is likely to find more heat than light in its new path toward marketable educational standards.

45 thoughts on ““Lack of Potential for Growth”: Marymount University to Cut Degrees in Theology, Math, History, and Other Core Degrees”

  1. How will anyone ever trust a ‘professional’ again? Degrees are literally meaningless in 2023. All it means is that you paid your money, and the degree might as well be a receipt for the transaction. I already flatly walk out if I encounter a doctor who is not at least my age; when this gets into things that quite literally impact all of society – what do we do? We have created quite a mess for ourselves, and money or Marxism is not going to fix it. I no longer know what to say. My wife and I are leaving the blue place we live in a few months, but how long will that hold when our government is run by the people with vested interest in reintroducing Feudalism to American society? Biden is a thug, the modern dem party are thugs, and there just don’t seem to be enough of us that recognize this fact, or that is entirely separate from party ideology. Young people today grew up without hearing about the Mafia. Worst case scenario, because they are devoid of brain power or compassion, they think the Mafia was ‘cool’.

    The globalists are actively inflicting this on every Western society (not a party, but a regime of the indescribably wealthy); thank goodness we have Nazi Germany as an object lesson, but what low do we have to reach before it is acknowledged that we are treading the same path, again, in spite of the evidence and the warning? This is NOT going to just ‘go away’, and I don’t know how to convince people on the left that still think they are voting for JFK, and there are a lot of them.

    We are the frog in the proverbial pot, and the temperature just keeps incrementally increasing year by year with the dems in power, and more broadly, leftists in power across the globe because people are now too frightened to voice their actual thoughts and feelings. Money doesn’t matter if one is starving or dead. If you don’t get the analogy, you are probably a millennial or younger. Another undeniable part of the problem. Regardless, leftism is on a fantastic course to utterly destroy relative peace in the world, and the kicker is that it is being done by design by people with more money than you. Suck it up, serfs.

  2. Jonathan: It’s called “supply and demand”. In our free market system you are not going to survive if you keep producing products consumers don’t want. Marymount University is a private Catholic university. As such it’s not obligated to provide a core curriculum mandated at public universities. With enrollment low in the humanities Marymount thinks investing in courses with “growth potential” makes more sense.

    Frankly, Marymount may be shooting itself in the foot–not to mention accreditation policies by the university’s accreditation agency. Popular subjects today may be less so tomorrow. In fact, there has been an uptick in interest in the humanities at other universities. At U of Cal Berkeley enrollment in the arts and humanities was up 121% over last year. So I think treating courses at Marymount as just another “product line” is short sighted. Perhaps the Marymount alumni should step up to the plate and put more money into their alma mater so low enrollment in certain courses won’t put them on the chopping block.

    Of course, this raises the whole issue of public vs private education. When private universities rely on private donations and tuition to survive they face challenges public universities don’t face. But you have written that private schools are becoming more appealing for conservatives because of the “woke” agenda at many public schools and universities. The example of Marymount is not exacting the best example you can point to of how private education is a viable alternative.

    1. Dennis – you say: “In our free market system you are not going to survive if you keep producing products consumers don’t want.” I question whether it is a matter of survival. Colleges survived well when they had only a few hundred students. In 1905, the enrollment at Notre Dame, another private university, was 770. http://notredamestoriesandstuff.blogspot.com/2014/11/university-of-notre-dame-student.html In 1866, the University of Michigan was the largest governmental university in the country with 1205 students. ” https://campusinfo.umich.edu/article/um-history ) College education should be inexpensive. The main tools, books, are usually in the public domain. The classrooms generally consist of a lecturn and chairs. It is possible that schools have added costs because they have lost a sense of their proper mission, or just greed. Instead of abandoning the core subjects, which are the only purpose for taking four years of a young person’s life, it would make more sense for College adminstrators to skeptically look at what they are spending money on, beginning with themselves.

  3. It may as well shut down! English, history, math, etc. (Some classes in these subjects were required – at Duquesne University in the early 1960s – of ALL students in its college of liberal arts and sciences, regardless of students’ majors. We received a well-rounded EDUCATION. I’m guessing Marymount needs to make room for some woke courses, DEI profs, etc.- and a worthwhile education at a Catholic university be damned!

  4. “Market driven” curricula means simply that the university is tuition dependent and is unable to attract enough students to cover its costs. I am perplexed by the apparent surprise that the President is taking this approach since she did the same thing at St. Thomas in Miami in the four years she was there before Marymount. Like so many things today, those college courses which historically have provided a well-rounded education are being swept away, only to be replaced by courses that offer the “academic” flavor of the day.

  5. MU needs a history professor.

    For example a student might ask, what is the 21 gun salute? Some people say, its because God rested on the 7th day of creation.

  6. Not being an educator, I can only surmise that the curriculum, as composed by the University’s trustees and board of directors, is what distinguishes one university from another, giving each its own character and, perhaps more importantly, it’s prestige. Re-direct that to the students? Hmmm!

  7. Would this be part of the “but math is toooo hard!” mindset?

    To lower costs, streamline programs and classes directly related to a given degree. I know college wants well rounded grads, but making someone take a art class at $800 a credit hour when their major is computer science is dumb.
    Even bigger waste of money is forcing a DIE requirement for graduation.

  8. I tried to post a comment which I concluded with the snarky statement that “what’s Milton and Shakespeare got that “B—- Better Have My Money” Rihanna doesn’t have?” In the comment, I spelled out the “B” word. My comment apparently was rejected because I spelled out the word. It is perhaps a sign of our times that a comment on this blog containing the word would be rejected while Rihanna, who sang the word before millions and millions of adults and children, received widespread praise and adulation for her Super Bowl halftime performance. I’m not sure what it means but it seems significant.

  9. Just who hires the misinformed prog/left types that make these sorts of bad decisions? Just what sort of cabal of anti-western types seem to have so much influence on these institutions. Go after these prime movers if you want to save this nation. Just the same with school boards across this nation, how did so many of them fall into the thralls of such anti-western ideologists. Time for some sweeping out the dark places where these ideologues are pulling strings.

  10. I suspect the real issue is declining enrollments at liberal arts colleges in general. Young men have been increasingly declining college, and zoomers are a relatively small cohort. This is a double whammy that will go on for years, and many liberal arts colleges will fail.

    The schools probably see three options: get the government to provide more egghead welfare, go hard left to appeal to zoomers, or cut curriculums to reduce costs. Going hard left will only alienate more young men and cutting curriculums will make accreditation an obvious joke. All this would just make the universities glorified inner-city schools and not solve the financial problems.

    Expect Biden to come out in 2024 with an “education package to make college affordable”. It will be egghead welfare, pure and simple. He’ll know he can’t get it, but he can buy votes with futile promises, just like he did with offering constitutionally bogus student-loan forgiveness.

    1. I think that you are right about that, Diogenes. Expect increased competition among liberal arts colleges, and then more closures. I wouldn’t trade my liberal arts degree for anything. It was good preparation for law school. But these colleges have increased administrative costs as they continue to hire diversity officers and fund other positions that are created to address current social issues. In the meantime, we have lost diversity of thought and the cost of a college education has increased exponentially.

  11. What does the University plan to offer as replacements for the studies being dropped? The article is silent on this.

  12. However he tries to explain the enlightened change of course at Marymount, President Becerra has caved to the woke left. I guess he believes that gender affirming and queer studies are “core” programs now at Marymount, a Catholic University ? Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  13. Yet another member of Academia educated well beyond their intelligence.

    I always thought one strived to attend a certain University or College based exactly upon their Academic Standards and quality of education you would obtain while a student.

    Marymount may as well go the On-Line path and and pimp yet more useless degrees and join the rest rather than try to be among the best.

    I could not afford an expensive education as I was self funded along with one help from the Veterans Administration and have done well because I did take the “hard” courses along with my “occupational” courses.

    I took math and physics, accounting, along with religion, psychology, and sociology courses which gave me a good. mix and the ability to be somewhat “educated” but also equipped to do well in my working career as well.

    My question to Marymount…..if you do away with Core Classes…..and keep the fluff…..why not just shut your doors as you are no longer fulfilling your Mission Statement that must surely require the provision of aqualityr education to the students enrolled at your school.

  14. What’s left to major in at Marymount? Gender studies? Queer studies? BLM studies? That’s what happens when you follow the market and the market is following the Democratic socialist agenda.

    1. I wonder, maybe tuition should be based on the person’s major. Mathematics which requires hard work gets a low tuition rate, while those alternative studies that lead nowhere and require little work could have a high tuition rate. That would be a type of equity.

  15. Time to end all federal aid and loans to colleges. Also any non-profit…like a college where ANYONE gets $100k+ should be TAXED
    paying sport coaches millions a year…is FOR PROFIT, Billion Endowments are FOR PROFIT…time leftist colleges PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE!

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