Due to University-mandated budget cuts and a deficit within the College of Fine Arts, the school has been forced in the previous months to freeze admissions to some of its popular degree programs. The University’s musical theatre, music business and musical recording technology programs are among those affected. While this won’t affect students already in the programs, it will leave them inaccessible to future generations. The cuts have also eliminated ceramics and metal-working studios. In a city as arts-driven as Austin, the local community college shouldn’t be the only institution still admitting to music business and recording technology programs.
In an interview with the Texan in December, Fine Arts Dean Douglas Dempster noted that the freezing of the music business and recording technology programs was an unfortunate step toward a planned Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies. The center would offer a Bachelor of Arts and would include offerings in gaming, digital arts, art management and more. But Dempster is worried that further budget cuts and restrictions this year could result in eliminations of more facilities and programs.
And rightly so. The hedging of fine arts programs as a result of budget restrictions is nothing new. When it comes down to it, degree programs in the arts are among the first to get slashed when funds are tight. But universities shouldn’t be so quick to axe arts programs. Even in times of fiscal austerity, universities should still fight to preserve programs in the fine arts.
The positive benefits of the fine arts are undisputed. As a 2012 study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts found, at-risk high school students with no art credits were five times less likely to graduate from high school than their fellow students with art credits. While this doesn’t apply directly to a university setting, it is clear that the arts foster a positive outlook on education by means of self-expression and interaction with a final product.
So then it’s incredibly short-sighted that the only college music business and recording programs in the “live music capital of the world” are at ACC, which only offers associate’s degrees. There’s something to be said when a college in a city with SXSW, ACL and many businesses dealing with entertainment is forced to shut down its degrees marketable to this industry.
With the changing job market, most universities, UT included, have put a new emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math at the expense of fine arts programs. The overwhelming demand for STEM graduates overshadows the importance of the arts in the eyes of education officials. The world today needs scientists and engineers, but a greater emphasis must be placed on giving students as many options as possible to pursue their passions.
The University of Texas cannot be a STEM degree factory. Due to budget cuts, the College of Fine Arts has been forced to freeze popular programs with fears of not having the means to reinstate them in the future. The college is attempting to move forward by means of upgrading facilities and degree offerings, but cannot do so when they are struggling to stay afloat as it is. The University needs to start taking its fine arts programs more seriously.