The Value of Cutting Arts Programs

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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Currently, Montana State University is operating at a healthy profit, making about $10 million per year with increasing enrollment meaning greater revenue. While promising, this situation is precarious, as at any time an economic decline or act of government could cause MSU expenses to increase. The imminent $23 million budget cut in the Montana university system is an example of this. So, in this case, MSU should strongly consider decreasing the amount of funding it provides to arts programs before cutting other programs or increasing tuition. While a philosophical belief of whether money or culture is more important to societal development may ultimately decide a person’s view on this issue, there are some logical reasons for taking this course of action.

The primary argument revolves around projected earnings post-graduation. According to MSU survey data, students who graduate with arts and architecture majors earn an average of $34,549 per year in entry-level positions, while the average of all other majors’ entry level positions provide $42,231 per year in earnings. Although career earnings are extremely variable, simulations also show that average career earnings for arts majors are nearly uniformly lower than career earnings for business, engineering and other majors. Given that our society runs on money, it can be said that non-arts majors give graduates an advantage when entering and living in the real world.

With this in mind, MSU should consider the financial well-being of their students when applying budget cuts. By restricting some programs, ideally students will turn toward other, more lucrative majors, improving their quality of life after graduation. It may not have been their first preference, but the stability will be worth it. MSU would also be wise to channel funds into their better performing majors for the long term health of cultural programs. By ensuring the economy has enough skilled workers to fuel it, society will have enough excess money to fund arts programs on a national level.

MSU must also keep its own interests in mind. The university’s primary goal is to ensure the highest possible graduation rate combined with ensuring those graduates are gainfully employed. While in times of prosperity, MSU may find value in offering a well-rounded curriculum. Focusing on the most successful majors keeps average entry-level wage high, which in turn would hopefully inspire higher graduation rates. MSU should also consider that five percent of its revenue comes from gifts, and that a sizeable portion of tuition revenue is made possible through scholarships that are often externally funded. The more grateful graduates are about their well-paying jobs, the more credit they give to their alma mater, and MSU will do better financially for each alumni that feels that way.

Ultimately, culture and art are developed from many locations, and one school’s decision to restrict funding won’t endanger those things at a national level. MSU should make the decision that is in the best interest of itself and its students, which is to encourage the selection of majors that generate the most income.

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