By Micah Edwards
Western Michigan University has seen a sudden decrease in students seeking a journalism degree over the past four academic school years.
According to WMU’s annual Degrees Conferred Reports, Western had consistently been handing out at least 20 journalism degrees from 2004 to 2012, peaking at 33 degrees in the 2005 to 2006 school year. However, in three of the past four years Western has had less than 10 journalism majors graduate.
It’s not just WMU that is handing out fewer journalism degrees. Grand Valley State University is more difficult to track because of more fluctuations, but 2012 was the lowest year with 10 journalism degrees awarded. In the two years prior to that they had given out 20 and 28 respectively, and in 2015 and 2014, GVSU awarded 13 and 14 journalism degrees respectively.
The decline in journalism degrees is not just related to Michigan. A University of Georgia study found that total enrollment in the nation’s journalism schools has dropped. While the United States Census confirms that college enrollment has been declining over the past two years, that overall decline cannot account for the sharpness in the journalism decline, especially in the years prior to the overall college enrollment decline.
There are many possible reasons for the declining number of journalism degrees being handed out. The American Journalism Review has been studying the nationwide decline in journalism degrees, and articles in the AJR note that a large part of the decline can be attributed to the publicity in layoffs in news media.
In their latest annual census, the American Society of News Editors found that newsroom jobs have dropped 10.4 percent, down to 32,900 full-time journalists in 2014 over 2013. The decrease in jobs is mostly due to declining subscriptions in newspapers, requiring layoffs and even closures. Students might be worried about getting a degree and then being unable to find a job in the media.
Brendan Buffa, a WMU senior and editor-in-chief of the Western Herald offered his own insight on why he thinks fewer students might be seeking out a degree.
“It’s very rare to see students that have the passion to get them to the point where they’re going to be working for a daily or an online presence,” Buffa said. “There’s a demand, just a very minimal amount of students that want to become involved with the journalism programs.”
Buffa said that he has noticed journalism changing throughout the years. He said that over the years he has seen a large push in journalism to go online, and thinks that these changes will continue to affect journalism both at Western, and the rest of the journalism community.
“I don’t think the Western Herald as a whole will dissolve at all in the next 25 years, I just think that the format with which we deliver the newspaper to the students will change dramatically,” Buffa said.
Emily Monacelli, a former WMU journalism student who now works for the Kalamazoo Gazette, still believes that there are reasons to study and work in the journalism field.
“I do still think that it’s a worthy profession. I’m still doing it. I think it opens doors to meeting a lot of people you wouldn’t normally meet and going places you normally wouldn’t go, so I think it’s worth it,” Monacelli said.