|All Sources > The Manitou Messenger (DA-MM) > The Manitou Messenger (1916-2014) > 1969 > No. 20, Vol. 82|
Better Red than Ph. Ed.
Last year St. Olaf College ran up a deficit for the first time in several years. Such an experience is bound to be a traumatic one for adminstrators, especially when the situation does not seem likely to right itself easily. It is indeed understandable, then, that administrators should look for places to cut down expenditures.
Judging from recent "tentative" administrative action, reported elsewhere in this issue, one of the first expenditures to go is "high cost courses." A "high cost course" is defined as a course for which less than ten students are registered. The standard argument is that these courses are much too expensive in terms of per-pupil cost to warrant their continued presence in the curriculum.
While the financial criterion is indeed an important one and not to be overlooked, it is unfortunate that it seems the only criterion applied to such decisions. In a liberal arts college, especially one like St. Olaf, where traditional views of the liberal arts dominate debate on the construction of a curriculum, it seems that some other criterion should also be employed. That criterion should be an attempt to order course priorities in terms of the goals of a liberal arts education.
Courses that do not meet the traditional concepts of liberal arts courses ought to be the first to be eliminated, regardless of the per-pupil cost. Those departments and courses that most easily fit into the liberal arts mold ought to be among the last to be eliminated, again regardless of the per-pupil cost.
If a liberal arts educational institution is to let its curriculum decisions be dictated purely by matters of economics, then it will teach only what proves economically profitable. It will teach only those things which students express an interest in, and it will not seek to expand the interests of its students. Such an attitude can easily reduce liberal arts colleges to the level of state universities, thus depriving the college of its distinctive curriculum.