Students lament cuts of 11 majors at Saint Mary’s University in Winona

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) — Major cuts are coming to Saint Mary’s University in Winona. The school plans to drop 11 majors, including English, theology and history. Thirteen faculty members will be laid off.

University leaders hope this will help the school find a renewed focus amid decreasing enrollment and limited resources.

“The population of college students has dropped significantly,” said the Rev. James Burns, president of the private Catholic institution. “We had to make a decision based on the limited resources, which things we could really be good at, and provide a holistic and full experience for them.”

Undergraduate programs to be phased out over the next several years include:

  • Actuarial science
  • Art
  • English
  • History
  • Human services
  • International business
  • Music
  • Music industry
  • Spanish
  • Theater
  • Theology

Emily Ostrowski, a theater major at Saint Mary’s, has one question: “I’m going back between ‘Do I transfer?’ But if I transfer, that means I’m leaving behind all of my friends.”

Students, including incoming freshmen, who are already in those major and minor programs will be able to complete their education in their chosen disciplines, according to the university.

Senior Rebecca Smart is majoring in art, one of the other cut programs.

“The things I was learning that I valued so much didn’t seem to be valued by the school that I thought valued me,” Smart said.

Students worry the focus is shifting from their education toward profit.

“Ultimately, the cuts were done for money,” said Morgan Brown, a nursing student with friends in the other programs. “Saving money, doing whatever they need to do. But I don’t think it was the smartest choice.”

Burns is optimistic about the future. He feels it will allow the university to focus on what it does best. Elements of the phased-out programs will still be available to students, including a more holistic humanities major that spans multiple subjects.

“After this kind of right-sizing, we’re really moving into the future strong, bright and hopeful,” Burns said.

Students worry these cuts won’t fix anything.

“For them to do something that so harshly impacts current students, that’s going to make everything worse as a whole,” Brown said.

Several Saint Mary’s students channeled their frustration into action and created a document for student testimonials.

It has 55 responses from students and alumni, and is growing.

Saint Mary’s enrolls nearly 5,000 students between its undergraduate campus in Winona and through its bachelor completion, and graduate and professional programs in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn., as well as online.

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