College will run only half of off-campus programs next year, citing pandemic, decreased interest

by Lauren Adler | 2/15/21 2:10am

The College will offer about 25 off-campus programs in the 2021-2022 academic year, just over half the roughly 40 usually offered. The list of eliminated, consolidated or paused programs has yet to be announced.

Associate dean for international studies and interdisciplinary programs Dennis Washburn previously stated that the Guarini Institute for International Understanding's total budget will be cut by roughly 45% in fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. The expense budget, which includes off-campus programs but not faculty and staff compensation, will be reduced 28% from the current year's expense budget. Fiscal year 2022 will see a 7% decrease from the current expense budget, and subsequent years will see smaller budget decreases, according to the College. After this year's cuts, Guarini plans to increase its offerings to 31 programs in the 2022-23 school year. 

The College cited ongoing complications from the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason for the budget reductions. For example, some of the vendors that Dartmouth has worked with in the past are now unavailable or out of business, and all programs will need to implement new health and safety measures. Ongoing issues mean it may take several years to return to a wider array of programs.

In order to accommodate the budget reductions, some programs will be consolidated, some changed to a biennial schedule and some that tend to attract fewer students will be cut completely. Exchange programs will remain in place, as they are largely budget-neutral.

The College also noted declining student interest in existing off-campus offerings as a factor in its reconsideration of its programs.

Enrollment in off-campus programs has dropped by 30% over the last 40 years, even as the number of offerings has increased by 14%, according to the College. Participation in study abroad programs peaked in the 1980s, with about 800 students enrolling in off-campus programs each year. That number dropped to 600 through the 1990s and 2000s, and to 500 for the 2018-2019 school year.  

The College attributed the decline in off-campus program participation in part to demands on varsity athletes and students in pre-professional programs.

Additionally, the College noted that while 75% of Guarini's current offerings are in arts and humanities departments — including language departments — there has been a 19% decline in enrollments and a 42% decrease in majors in the arts and humanities over the past two decades. However, there has been a 36% increase in enrollment and a 34% increase in majors in departments like government and computer science, which the College said has prompted it to pursue more language programs combined with these subject areas.

According to French and Italian department chair David LaGuardia, the French department will be offering three programs for the upcoming school year: a language study abroad plus to Toulouse over the winter term and a foreign study program to Paris during both the winter and spring terms. Meanwhile, the French LSA and LSA+ to Lyon in the winter and the spring LSA to Toulouse will be cut. 

Additionally, a new combined German and engineering FSP to Berlin is set to run next spring, and a combined Russian and government FSP to Moscow will also likely run at some point over the next school year. Department chairs of other language departments — including the Spanish and Portuguese department and the Italian department — said in the last two weeks that they were still unsure of what their program offerings will be for the upcoming year.

In addition to stress and uncertainty over which programs might ultimately be cut, language professors say they are frustrated with the College's framing of the changes as "faculty-led."

German department chair Klaus Mladek wrote that the wording of the announcement from the College's communications office "was a real shame, as if the faculty consented to this drastic cut."

Various language departments have continued to circulate petitions in support of their programs. As of Sunday night, a petition by the Spanish and Portuguese department had received over 1,000 signatures and 200 testimonials vouching for the programs to remain in place.