Top 10 Majors That are Going Extinct

Posted January 31, 2010

Gone are the days of art history majors going on to become middle managers or music majors programming computers. Today’s college students (and often, their parents) are increasingly expecting the student’s major to directly link to a career after graduation. The combination of this trend and funding cuts in most schools across the US, is leading to many institutions finding themselves in a position of terminating specific majors. Read this list to discover ten college majors that are headed for the distant past.

  1. Philosophy. Traditionally, philosophy has been a popular major for graduates headed to medical school or law school. Since fewer students are seeing the benefits of learning to problem-solve and think analytically that a degree in philosophy can provide, the number of students declaring this major is on the way down. In a situation that garnered plenty of attention, the Board of Regents in Louisiana recently terminated the philosophy degree at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
  2. The Classics. The study of ancient Greek and Latin was once a cornerstone to any good education. Unfortunately, it is quickly becoming a thing of the past. While some schools still offer classes in Greek and Latin, they are often only offered every second or third year and may have waiting lists. Michigan State University recently terminated their Classics degree program. Faculty at Brandeis University fear that their long-standing courses in ancient Greek may soon be eliminated due to their low attendance rate.
  3. American Studies. Michigan State University recently did away with their American Studies major. American Studies at MSU was established in 1967 and offered students a diverse selection of classes from history, literature, and museum studies. Students could choose such areas of study as women’s studies, African-American studies, Native American studies, and science and technology studies. Many majors such as American Studies are falling by the wayside in place of more traditional literature or history majors that students hope will be more clearly defined for a career in areas such as education.
  4. Environmental Science. This major has recently been eliminated at several schools around the nation. McNeese State University has chosen to blend it with wildlife management to create a new major called Natural Resource Conservation Management. Louisiana State University, Shreveport, has done away with this environmental science completely.
  5. Social work. This degree is typically one that offers the lowest rate of return on investment for college graduates. Social work positions are notoriously low-paying and are typically high-stress jobs. Perhaps these reasons coupled with dire financial straits are why Arizona State University recently eliminated their social work degree program on their Tucson campus.
  6. Journalism. With the recent discussion over whether or not printed newspapers have reached their end, the elimination of many traditional journalism jobs such as copy editing, and the upswing of non-traditional sources of news such as citizen journalism, the journalism major may not have much more of a future. The Documentary Institute at the University of Florida, touted as one of the best programs for documentary filmmakers, may be one such casualty. This program in the journalism and communications department may be closed to help save the university $362,000.
  7. Foreign languages. Majors in Spanish, French, and other foreign languages have long been popular among students, but these courses of study seem to be on the way out. German language studies may soon be eliminated in schools such as Florida State University, Washington State University, and University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has already been closed at the University of Southern California. Some schools, such as Iowa State University of Science and Technology, have transformed their foreign language degrees into courses of study only available as second majors with new names like "world languages and cultures" in the hopes of attracting students under the guise of providing necessary global knowledge for their business or engineering degrees.
  8. Humanities. A humanities degree usually encapsulates many of the individual degrees already listed here. The classics, literature, philosophy, history, foreign languages, and art are often a part of a degree in humanities. Because so many of these individual degrees are being cut, it makes sense that a degree that is spread across several of these courses of study would also be eliminated. John J. Neuhauser, the president of St. Michael’s College in Vermont, suggests humanities teach important skills, but may be disappearing as a major. A report released by the Modern Language Association indicated that jobs in the language arts and other humanities are disappearing. This may be a result of the disappearance of the programs from college campuses.
  9. Agriculture. Several degree programs in the agricultural field are being eliminated or consolidated. Southeastern Louisiana University recently eliminated their BS in Horticulture, University of Idaho did away with their Industry Management and Communications option in their Agricultural Education department due to a very low number of students (about 4-5 a year), and University of Georgia eliminated their Turf Management major due to a complete lack of any student enrollment over the life of the major in the Horticulture department. The Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University enjoys both a long history of success as well as a current program that contributes to work in the field. However, they are even experiencing heated discussions about consolidating programs due to budget constraints.
  10. Geological Engineering. Perhaps the recent movement away from dependence on fossil fuels has made this major less popular or maybe it has something to do with the quality of professional work done in the industry, but enrollment numbers are down in this course of study. There was controversy at the University of Arizona when the faculty senate decided to eliminate geological engineering. A professor in the department claimed they were trying to get rid of him, despite members of the senate providing evidence of declining enrollment, loss of faculty and staff, and budget cuts. With much less controversy, New Mexico State University also eliminated this major.

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