Michael King writes at The American Journalism Review about a study from the University of Georgia’s James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research.
The study, titled Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Enrollments, showed total master’s and undergraduate enrollments among 485 U.S. journalism and mass communication programs declined by 2.9 percent in fall 2012, following a combined drop of 1.1 percent the previous year. Previously, enrollment in journalism and mass communication programs had grown every year but two since 1993, the study said.
Both undergraduate and master’s enrollments fell by the same amount in 2012 — 2.9 percent — but their respective declines varied the year before. Undergraduate enrollment dropped 0.5 percent in 2011, while master’s enrollment fell 9.4 percent. Doctoral enrollments, by contrast, increased both years, rising 4.9 percent in 2012 and 4.2 percent in 2011.
Journalism and mass communication enrollment is “dominated” by the undergraduate population, the study found. Some 93 percent of the total 212,488 students enrolled nationwide in the major in the fall of 2012 were undergraduates.
The study found that advertising and public relations continued to expand within mass communication programs, claiming a larger share of the curriculum than pure journalism courses.
The Georgia researchers concluded that journalism education is falling behind other fields within universities, where overall enrollment trends are up. The National Center for Education Statistics, for example, projects 1 percent growth annually for all undergraduate enrollment through 2021.
Media analysts say it’s too soon to tell whether the journalism enrollment declines represent the start of a downturn. “Two years does not a long-term trend make,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.
He sees the recent dips as a natural reaction to negative publicity about the news industry. Rosenstiel noted that media outlets have extensively documented the crises of journalism employment for years, causing high school students to wonder whether studying the profession will result in a steady career.