Study: Journalism enrollment fell nationwide past 2 years

Recent research by a team at the University of Georgia shows a decline in enrollment in college journalism courses across the nation, according a study released by the University of Georgia’s James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research.

“Collectively, enrollments in journalism and communication schools nationwide recently fell two years in a row for the first time in two decades,” the study found.

Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Thomas Calhoun acknowledged the researchers’ findings.

“We have had declines in every college at UNA except the college of business,” Calhoun said. “It is not huge, but it is definitely a decline.”

Some researchers suggest the negative publicity of the media is a major deterrent for prospective students, according to the American Journalism Review.

Chair of the Department of Communications Greg Pitts echoed this.

“We hit a peak about two to three years ago, but our enrollment is down a little bit,” Pitts said. “I think it is due in part to the national look people have had at journalism.”

Sophomore Marina Loveland said a person’s view of the media depends on his or her life experiences.

“My sister was raised to watch the news,” she said. “But she’s 10 years older than me, and I always thought ‘why does (news) matter?’”

Pitts also pointed to the curriculum as a contributor.

“People sometimes think of writing as more of a bitter pill to swallow,” Pitts said. “Right now, people are probably a little unfocused in how they look at it.”

Loveland said students should know what they are getting into no matter what they choose to study in college.

“No matter what your major, you have to do your research,” she said. “Know what you’ll be doing.”

Money is one of the greatest concerns low enrollment poses for higher education officials and students. Calhoun said.

He confirmed the money issue has become more prominent over the last decade.

“A decline in enrollment directly leads to a decline in financing and makes universities charge more tuition in order to balance (their) books,” Calhoun said. “They don’t want to charge more, and students don’t want to pay more.”

One such way UNA is working to ease monetary demands is by changing the way scholarships are offered, he said.

Pitts also described positive changes in the Department of Communications. “If you were to pull the catalog and look at how it was in 2009 when I came here versus how it is today, you would see almost a 180 degree turn,” Pitts said.

“We are teaching more digital skills,” he said. “The more of these skills you have the better off you are going to be. Writing, critical thinking, liberal arts, and digital skills make a great undergraduate degree for someone.”

The light research has shed on enrollment is causing some college officials to take a more personal approach toward recruitment, and Calhoun said officials at UNA are working vigorously to combat enrollment declines.

“We are launching a more aggressive marketing campaign to prospective students,” Calhoun said. “There may be a decline, but there is an uptick in the way educational products are being offered.”

Like the curriculum in the Communications Department, changes at UNA are expected to bring in more students and maintain those currently enrolled, he said.

He said developments such as new residence halls, the First Year Experience Program, and the University Success Center are put in place to ensure students a welcoming and helpful college environment.

He expressed his belief that everyone on campus plays a role in recruitment, whether he or she is faculty, staff, or a student.

“We are all ambassadors for UNA,” he said. “Something as simple as holding a door for somebody and saying good morning could influence how UNA is perceived.”

Even though studies project a decrease in college enrollment as we shift out of the millennial generation, Pitts said he is confident UNA is ready to grow.

“I think you want your program to be alive and vibrant and responding to changes in the industry,” he said. “We have to do a better job of telling our story — who we are and what we have to offer.”