U Tennessee Saves Foreign Language Programs

Story from commericalappeal.com, March 14, 2011:

University of Tennessee administrators have come up with an alternative to eliminating Russian and Italian degree programs and will continue to offer the majors while also cutting costs.

The two programs had been identified for elimination before the university decided to roll all foreign languages into one degree and instead offer concentrations in any of eight languages that are offered. The change is in response to a $56 million budget cut for the Knoxville campus.

College of Arts and Sciences associate dean Richard Hinde told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the more obscure languages will now be less vulnerable to tight budgets.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission requires a report on the number of graduates in each degree program. Russian and Italian are on the commission’s lineup of low-producing programs.

“We are delighted that (Russian and Italian) will continue to be viable opportunities for majors and for language study for our students,” said Erec Koch, head of the foreign language department that helped develop the change. “They still have tremendous value in international politics and in international business. The Italian economy is still one of the larger ones in the world, and the Russian economy is becoming more important, and certainly Russia continues to be an important international presence.”

Provost Susan Martin in December suggested trying to find a way to handle a high demand for low-level Spanish courses and to continue offering the other languages, which also include Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese.

The college and modern foreign languages department together came up with the idea of creating one major with multiple offerings and the provost recently approved it.

Eliminating the programs would have taken at least a year and a half and the school would have continued to teach courses in those languages, Martin said. By not offering full degrees, however, they would not have to teach as many high-level courses, which are more costly. Each language has two full-time professors.

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