When Kaitlin Benton learned that Simmons University is considering eliminating certain liberal arts departments, she was emotional, but not surprised.
Benton, a rising senior from Framingham, is pursuing a double major in history and art history at the women’s college. She had heard through friends and professors that sociology, modern languages, and literature majors were at risk amid the college’s financial struggles.
“I was just feeling all the emotions,” she said in an interview. “I was between wanting to laugh at how ridiculous it is, and to cry and feel anger and frustration.”
Simmons has promised that current students in affected departments would be able to finish their majors. But Benton and others said news of the potential cuts had left them reeling — and worried about the college’s future.
Simmons is primarily known for its nursing and social science programs. In 2020, 42 percent of bachelor’s degrees conferred were in health professions and related programs. Just one percent graduated with a degree in history.
But Kaz Gebhardt, a rising junior from Walpole, said that Simmons had promised a liberal arts experience.
“When I was applying for schools we were told by admissions that the school had a robust liberal arts curriculum,” said Gebhardt, who is majoring in history with a French minor. “We were promised that there would be many opportunities in the humanities.”
When Gebhardt heard about the proposed cuts, they said they were “very hurt.”
Simmons President Lynn Perry Wooten told the Globe earlier this week that the college must make difficult decisions to achieve financial stability in a turnaround plan she estimated would take three to five years.
“Change is coming, but this change is going to position Simmons better,” Wooten said.
Abigail Meyers, a journalism major and political science minor who just wrapped up her first year at the university, said the possible cuts were “alarming” and stressful. She and other students said they thrived in the tight-knit liberal arts setting and praised the communities formed in small majors.
Meyers, from Baltimore, said her major and classes helped her with the transition as an out-of-state student.
“It reaffirmed that Simmons was where I was meant to be,” she said.
Many students, including Meyers, expressed concern that departments beyond the liberal arts could also be eliminated.
“I’m definitely worried about the state of non-STEM programs at a school like Simmons,” Myers said.
Benton was attracted to Simmons because of the financial aid package as well as the diversity of classes, she said.
“I chose Simmons because it gives you the opportunity to explore outside of the major as a liberal arts college,” she said. “If they plan to cut these majors, I don’t think they can call themselves that.”
Tyler McSheffrey, a studio art and psychology double major from Cohasset, said they were “furious” when they heard about the cuts.
“To find out that the art department and the community we’ve tried hard to foster is getting possibly removed was really hard to hear,” they said. “It feels like we’re being abandoned and neglected.”
McSheffrey, a rising senior, is president of the arts and music liaison, a club dedicated to the arts. The club’s vice president, Liz Addesso, expressed similar concerns.
“To see this cut from Simmons is frustrating and it makes me anxious for my future,” said Addesso, an art management major. “How do I present a degree in a major that might soon not exist?”
In an email to students Friday, the university said current students and incoming first-years would “experience no interruption” in their chosen majors. The college also said it plans to “gradually refocus our academic portfolio to better align with student demands, to focus on areas where we see future growth potential, and to invest in areas that support the goal of gender equity.”
Simmons, like other small, private colleges in New England, faces a declining population of college-aged students and fierce competition from less expensive public and online-only competitors.