Kennesaw State University faced pushback late last week when it revealed plans to cancel its African-American studies degree. The university has since said it will continue the program, at least through the 2017-18 academic year.
In its explanation of the planned discontinuation of the degree, the university said the program consistently failed to meet the minimum number of enrollees and graduates recommended by the Georgia State Board of Regents.
Kennesaw State University started its African and African Diaspora Studies program in 2004. In the last five years, an average of only 10 students was enrolled in the program as majors, according to an enrollment report from the Board of Regents.
Griselda Thomas, coordinator of the African-African studies degree at KSU, encouraged people to look beyond the figures.
"I think when you talk about numbers, that's one measure of our success,” Thomas said. “But the other measure of our success are the classes. We have very popular classes. Our classes often fill up. So we have been doing the work."
Even so, enrollment numbers for African-American studies programs at other state universities aren’t much higher. In the last five years, the University of Georgia enrolled an average of just four students in its African-American Studies program. Savannah State University, a smaller, historically black college, had an average of nine students.
Georgia State University is an exception to that trend, enrolling an average of 46 students over those five years.
Emory University African-American department chairwoman Carol Anderson said an important aspect in all of this is the resources a school invests in a black studies degree. She said it has to be a priority.
“There’s a way that you can be very strategic about this, and there’s a way that you can’t,” Anderson said.
Kennesaw State is now working with its African and African Diaspora Studies program leaders to develop a plan to attract more students. In the spring of 2018, the university intends to evaluate again whether the program is viable.