Humanities funding is less of a concern for the University of Georgia than statewide budget cuts on public education.
“It’s a problem in Georgia, and it’s a problem nationally,” said Claudio Saunt, a Richard B. Russell Professor and head of the department of history. “Since I’ve been here, the state has drastically cut funding, so it’s basically transferring the cost of public education from the state to individuals. I think the sciences are suffering just as much as the humanities.”
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ budget analysis and enrollment estimates completed by the National Center for Education Statistics, the state of Georgia has had a 29.5 percent decrease in spending per higher education student between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2013.
Average tuition at public, four-year colleges in Georgia has also increased by 63.2 percent during that time, the fifth largest increase in the nation, according to the analysis.
Saunt said he has seen this transfer of costs affect the undergraduate and graduate students in his department.
“I see undergraduates who have one and even two jobs while trying to get their BA, and that’s quite difficult to handle,” Saunt said. “Graduate students’ stipends here, what they’re paid for the work that they do, which is to serve as our teaching assistants, are extraordinarily low, far below even universities that are not competitive with us in all other measures.”
Martin Kagel, an A.G. Steer Professor and head of the department of Germanic and Slavic languages, said he sees funding being fairly distributed between the sciences and humanities.
“To my knowledge, there have been no targeted funding cuts simply aimed at the humanities departments,” Kagel said. “All the departments have suffered because of the economic crisis over the past seven years, but all of the budgets were cut in the departments.”
Kagel said he has seen these across-the-board cuts in recent years affect his department.
“We have been affected indirectly because the budget of the University has been cut and has been reduced fairly significantly every year,” Kagel said. “We’ve lost positions that haven’t been replaced, and we are still looking to hire faculty members, because in this department we’ve lost six faculty members since 2006. So far we’ve replaced three of those positions.”
Ruth Ann Bailey, a junior political science major from Jefferson, said the shift in focus to the sciences could be seen as positive and negative.
“I guess there could be less funding for the humanities in the future, if more students come to study in the science departments,” Bailey said. “It could be positive, because more money would go into the scientific research, but it could also be negative if that means there’s less funding for the humanities.”
Saunt said the worst effect he imagines happening if UGA were to stop focusing as much of its funding on the humanities and arts departments would be the transformation of those departments into service departments.
However, Saunt said he does not believe this will become an issue.
“A worst-case scenario, which I don’t see happening, and I don’t believe the administration is in favor of, would be that the history department and the English department become service departments,” Saunt said. “That means we’re not encouraged or supported in our research, and that we’re here solely to teach the first year classes and to support the sciences and economics departments. I don’t really have a concern that that’s going to happen.”
Kagel said overall his department has been treated well under the circumstances of the budget cuts UGA has faced.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Kagel said. “But I think generally [the humanities and arts] are in a good position, because I think the administration recognizes the significance of what we do and values it also.”
Nicholas Allen, the director of the Willson Center of Humanities and Arts and Franklin Professor of English, also said UGA consistently supports the humanities and arts departments and is positive it will continue to do so.
“We appreciate the support of the president and provost, who understand the intellectual, public and indeed economic value of arts and humanities research,” he said. “The Willson Center brings the University’s research to a global audience and support for our work, and that of the faculty, is an ongoing investment in the University’s ambition for excellence.”