The Arts Amid Budget Cuts: Underfunded or Undervalued?

By: Emilia MacDonald

Edited By: Cynthia Stringer

Recently, it has been announced in both local and national news sites that Queen’s University will be enacting budget cuts with a primary focus on the Faculty of Arts and Science, which includes over 11,000 students and more than 450 faculty members. Austerity measures that will be implemented over the next year include cutting courses with small class sizes and minimizing the number of teaching assistants. But Queen’s University is not the first to cut costs at the expense of those studying the arts and humanities. This article will strive to identify the possible changes and nuances within our society that are leading to the minimization of the arts.

First, it is vital to recognize the importance of the arts within our communities. Arts and culture are needed for a society that focuses on serving the health and good of society. In particular, when the arts and humanities are funded within both schools and communities, talent, creativity, growth, and opportunities flourish within a population. Despite their importance, arts and culture do not receive enough public funds, so they rely on private donations in order to function. Unfortunately, donations have been unable to keep up with increasing inflation rates, and they cannot compensate for the decreasing number of donors within the field. 

In addition to diminishing donations from both public and private sources, there is a societal bias against those who work or study within the arts and humanities fields. The narrow perception of the arts in society, which values only what can be quantitatively measured, diminishes the true worth of the arts. Society’s dismissal of the arts has far-reaching consequences for individuals, particularly students who are discouraged from studying artistic pursuits due to societal pressures and perceptions. Furthermore, the pressure to avoid studying the arts or following artistic careers can force people to choose between their creative interests and making money.

The final piece of this puzzle is the significance of higher education systems cutting funding to arts and humanities programs. These budget cuts are likely to have significant ramifications  for the function of our society, including the health and participation within our democratic system. Looking back at history, most higher education systems and institutions in the United States were developed on a foundation of the liberal arts. Yet from 2013 to 2016, 651 language programs were closed, and programs in the classics, the arts, and religion have been continually shrinking or eliminated.

There is a pattern in the disinvestment in the liberal arts that coincides with universities and colleges evolving into vocational schools that focus on professional training with programs in business, nursing, and computer sciences. While some may argue that students are to blame for choosing programs outside of the arts and humanities, these choices are often influenced by financial factors such as scholarship and investment availability, as well as rising costs of higher education.

The evolution of universities and colleges to vocational schools is not set in stone. It cannot be understated that populations who are aware of history, have studied ethics, and can appreciate culture are better equipped to function in society. By increasing funding for arts and humanities within higher education systems and our communities, we can bring attention to and promote the value of appreciating and understanding these disciplines.

Image Citation:

Skylar. (2017). Humanities. [Online Image] Source:


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