Each year, a key part of the appropriations process is Dear Colleague Letters. These letters, circulated each March, are written to request a certain amount of appropriations funding for agencies and policy priorities. The letters then receive sign ons from Members of Congress who wish to add their support to specific funding requests.
Our recent Humanities Recruitment Survey (HRS) revealed a consensus among faculty and administrators across institution types that “student concerns about job prospects” is the most influential challenge to attracting undergraduates to the humanities. Over the past year, we’ve been updating the career outcomes data in our Study the Humanities toolkit and collecting effective strategies for articulating career pathways for humanities students. Anticipating that student anxieties will weigh even heavier amidst the economic fallout of the pandemic, we’ve been reaching out to leaders in this field to understand how they are adapting. Kirstin Wilcox, founding director of the University of Illinois’ Humanities Professional Resource Center (HPRC), offered her take.
Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray are three literary legends of the twentieth century, pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and cultural theory. Each of these authors spent their formative years in HBCUs, and have artistic and biographical ties to Tuskegee University and Macon County, Alabama—a region that serves as a backdrop to and central inspiration for their works.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt our lives, we look toward an uncertain future for higher education. However the crisis unfolds, it seems clear that our society will need humanities education more than ever, but securing support for it will be even more difficult in the face of enormous financial challenges. We must reverse the decline in humanities majors and enrollments to preserve humanities education and prepare students to tackle the complex challenges we face.
As Congress begins to consider additional COVID-19 relief funding packages, we are calling on humanities advocates to contact their Members of Congress this week to urge additional relief funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. While we are very grateful for $75 million awarded to the NEH in the CARES Act, currently available funding will cover only a fraction of the needed assistance.
Update, March 23, 2020: Yesterday afternoon, Republican leadership in the Senate released a draft stimulus bill that included only $100 million in spending for the NEH (and an equal amount for the NEA). Later that afternoon, negotiations on that draft bill broke down due to a range of bigger differences, and a vote on a Senate bill has been postponed as negotiations continue. Meanwhile, the House is beginning to draft its own bill rather than waiting to respond to the Senate bill. We expect the House to release its bill later today.
Additionally, last night Reps. David Price and Chellie Pingree sent a letter to House leadership requesting $500 million in stimulus funding for the NEH. Please join Reps. Price and Pingree and take action to let your Members of Congress know you support stimulus funding for the NEH.
We are looking forward to kicking off this year’s NHA Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day with a deep dive into undergraduate recruitment strategies. We’ll begin by sharing what we learned about recruitment challenges at nearly 300 diverse institutions through our 2019 Humanities Recruitment Survey, as well as the audiences faculty and administrators are engaging with to overcome these challenges. Next, we’ll showcase categories and subcategories of effective approaches surfaced through this research and associated outreach—including articulating career pathways, curricular innovations, and marketing strategies. Participants will work together to develop strategies after hearing leaders of noteworthy initiatives reflect upon their experiences.