Colleges in Maine and Mississippi, two of the states with the highest percentages of rural students, are cutting academic majors like journalism, geosciences, and foreign languages, in favor of “high-demand majors” like business and nursing, according to a recent article by The Hechinger Report.
Nationwide, 48 states have cut college faculty and have decreased spending on higher education since before the recession. In Mississippi, one of the states highlighted in the article, only 33 percent of adults have college educations compared to the national average of 40 percent. Five of the state’s eight public universities recently announced a tuition increase for the next two academic years due to budget shortfalls, and Mississippi’s public universities and community colleges have asked the legislature for $155 million more in funding for the next fiscal year.
Educators say that program cuts at universities that serve largely poor, rural students will lead to fewer career options for graduates who may already struggle to find employment. Others say it could be more challenging to fill jobs that lack qualified candidates. “At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more, not less, to ensure that our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, the budget and policy priority center’s director of state fiscal research to The Hechinger Report.
Research shows that although rural students outperform peers on national standardized tests, they are less likely to attend college than their nonrural peers. Those who do are less likely to attend a private or four-year- college than their college-going, non-rural peers. Rural students also lag urban peers on college-persistence rates.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.