Programs with less than 10 degrees
Kansas University’s smallest bachelor’s degree programs, with the average number of degrees awarded from fiscal years 2006-2010.
- Physics: 9.4 degrees
- Germanic languages and literatures: 9.2 degrees
- Humanities: 9.0 degrees
- Slavic languages and literatures: 7.5 degrees
- Visual arts education: 7.5 degrees
- Dance: 7.0 degrees
- Music therapy: 6.0 degrees
- Engineering physics: 4.6 degrees
- Petroleum engineering: 4.4. degrees
- Classics and classical languages: 4.2 degrees
- Classical antiquity: 4.0 degrees
- Astronomy: 3.6 degrees
- European studies: 3.2 degrees
- College special studies: 3.0 degrees
- Russian, East European and Eurasian studies: 2.3 degrees
Fifteen Kansas University degree programs award 10 or fewer bachelor’s degrees each year, and could be the target of state review.
But that doesn’t mean the programs don’t contribute in other ways, KU officials say.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called on Missouri’s higher education institutions in that state to justify the existence of degree programs that graduate smaller numbers of students, the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune reported.
And, in Kansas, Gov.-Elect Sam Brownback recently said in an interview that perhaps Kansas should look at similar programs. After a Journal-World request for information, KU provided a list of its 15 programs that have averaged 10 or fewer bachelor’s degrees awarded over the past five years.
The list includes some bedrocks of a traditional liberal arts curriculum — such as classics — and a few other programs, such as physics, dance and Slavic languages and literatures.
Danny Anderson, dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that many of the programs provide a variety of other benefits to the university and the state.
And five of the 15 — college special studies, European studies, humanities, engineering physics and Russian, East European and Eurasian studies — draw on existing faculty from multiple disciplines and don’t cost the university anything extra to operate.
College special studies, for example, isn’t really a program in and of itself, but allows students to create a specialized major with approval from the university.
When looking to make changes to how a program is structured, Anderson said the college has a process that includes self-studies and input from peer universities as well as administrative reviews.
“We’re always asking where do we need to be five to 10 years from now,” Anderson said. “If you had called 20 years ago, you may have been asking ‘Why does KU want to continue offering Chinese or Arabic?’ And those languages are very important today.”
Physics, for example, is one of the foundation sciences taught at a university, Anderson said, and it shows how a department can house several different degree programs. The department at KU is called physics and astronomy, and it houses three of the listed small degree programs — physics, astronomy and engineering physics.
KU officials said that many of the programs are technical and aren’t intended for everyone, but even the small number of graduates provide the state with skilled, trained workers that fill a need.
Some programs on the list, such as petroleum engineering, are experiencing a rebound from low enrollments, said Russell Ostermann, associate chairman of chemical and petroleum engineering.
Though its current average over five years has the program at under 10 bachelor’s degrees per year, it is on track to graduate 13 students this year, and has 22 juniors in good standing ready for next year.
Besides, it’s the only petroleum engineering program in the state, he said, and trains people for high-paying jobs; starting salaries can average more than $80,000, Ostermann said.
And its research, accomplished through programs such as KU’s Tertiary Oil Recovery Project, benefits Kansas business people, he said.
Engineering physics, too, has seen increased enrollment, where levels are at a 29-year high.