Degree seeking students studying Spanish at Oregon State University-Cascades may be disappointed due to the language minor recently being dropped from the program.
Though OSU-Cascades officially made the decision in 2008, nine credits are all that remain available to students in the Spanish department since this fall term.
When Spanish classes at OSU-Cascades began to enroll six students or fewer, the school decided to cut some courses.
OSU-Cascades’ director of enrollment services Jane Reynolds was involved in making the decision. She looked at how many students the school had, how many had previously earned a minor and how many were currently enrolled in the program.
“We can’t justify offering classes that have very low enrollment,” said Reynolds.
The school gave students enough notice to decide to complete the program, as an attempt to ensure that those who already had interest or had started the process would be able to complete it, according to Reynolds.
“We basically connected with anybody who had taken a Spanish class at Cascades over the prior … few years,” said Reynolds. “We said, ‘If you would like to finish up the Spanish minor, you need to do it over the next couple years.’”
According to Reynolds, students could have started in the fall of 2008 and finished the minor because the “teach-out” process took two years.
Those students grandfathered into the program should have achieved the minor at the completion of the 2009-10 school year.
This leaves the college without any degrees in foreign languages.
Some Spanish still offered
There is still a three-course 300-level sequence available to students who need upper-division foreign language classes for their degrees, according to Dr. Marla Hacker, the university’s associate dean of academic programs.
The university spared these nine credits because for a few majors, such as international ecotourism, they are still required. This means students can get one full year of advanced Spanish education.
Leslie Veenstra is currently the only remaining Spanish instructor at OSU-Cascades. Last fall term she taught Spanish 311, a third-year language course that teaches advanced grammar. This winter term, Veenstra is teaching Spanish 312 and OSU-Cascades will offer the 313 course in spring.
Even though these foreign language classes are still required for some students, enrollment remains low.
Veenstra currently has seven students enrolled in her class.
“It’s great for a language class,” said Veenstra, referring to the individual attention that her students receive, “but it’s not enough to keep the program.”
Of the seven students in Veenstra’s class, not all are pursuing degrees. Some are simply looking for advanced training or keeping up on their Spanish-speaking skills.
Because not all seven pupils are traditionally enrolled, the school is left with the question of whether a foreign language minor is an undergraduate’s desire.
Students not pursuing minors
Before OSU-Cascades cut the minor, the numbers were not much different. Reynolds believes that the low enrollment in the minor may have more to do with the fact that many students do not choose to have a minor at all.
OSU-Cascades students have the option to earn a minor, but most of the degrees do not require it, according to Reynolds.
“I think people are really interested in doing it,” Reynolds said, “but when it comes time to actually take the classes, they’re very busy working on their majors.” She believes that many students skip minors in general, in an attempt to save time, effort, and expense.
Cuts at COCC
Students who choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, as opposed to a Bachelor of Science, are required to have two years in foreign language, but those two years can be achieved at the neighboring Central Oregon Community College.
Unfortunately for students in Bend, cuts have been made at COCC, as well.
Robin Martinez, a COCC Spanish instructor, teaches 100 and 200 level Spanish grammar classes, but she used to teach more.
In the fall of 2009, Martinez led Spanish 211, a conversation and culture class. The class is part of a sequence that includes Spanish 212 and 213, but the college cut the sequence before winter term due to low enrollment numbers.
While disappointed, Martinez was not surprised.
“In all of the colleges I’ve taught at—state, private, and community college—there is a magic number of students that says, ‘Yes, we can go ahead and give this class,’” she said. “There’s a low, break-even number, and anything over that begins to make some money for the institution.”
Martinez also teaches grammar courses, which have less problems filling up as they fulfill requirements for students earning both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
Martinez admits that the school has other programs that are in higher demand and are more likely to need financial support.
“A college that is pumping money into a program that is losing money for the institution for too long is actually draining away money from other programs that might need the funds more,” she said.
Veenstra is especially disappointed about the loss of the conversation and culture classes at COCC because they were helpful in preparing students for her 300-level grammar courses at OSU-Cascades.
“That’s what we kind of depend on for the transition to here because it’s so hard,” said Veenstra, referring to how the conversation and culture class aids students in preparation for her Spanish 311 class.
Minor might return
Currently, 678 junior, senior and graduate students are enrolled at OSU-Cascades. Hacker said that in 2014 the university hopes to have 1,000 students. At that time, she anticipates that the school will bring the Spanish minor back.
Some students are wishing that the university never dropped the program because they would have liked to minor in Spanish.
Melissa Mattson, an OSU-Cascades tourism and outdoor leadership program student, said, “If I was not in my senior year, I would definitely consider getting it.”
“Depending on the major, I think that having a minor in Spanish would be very beneficial,” said Mattson, “especially if the major is anything to do with international travel or even anything to do with the hospitality industry.”
Mattson believes that being bilingual is helpful to students when they graduate and enter the workforce.
“Our society is a mixture of ethnicities and is constantly changing,” said Mattson. “Being sensitive to other cultures will only better serve the society as a whole.”