ANALYSIS: A review of the University of California system finds a lack of interest in achieving a degree in black or African-American studies.
The College Fix undertook a project to determine the popularity of majors, minors and graduate degrees in Black Studies and African-American Studies.
The Fix emailed and filed public records requests for all nine University of California system schools that grant undergraduate degrees. The tenth school, the University of California San Francisco, is a graduate medical school only.
Currently, six of the nine UC schools offer either an African-American Studies or a Black Studies major or a minor. Other universities offer degrees in critical race or ethnic studies, but those programs have minimal interest as well.
An unsigned email from the university system’s public relations team said that it does not track enrollment in minors across the system.
The University of California Office of the President tracked the total number of degrees awarded to students in these programs across all campuses, but did not have a campus breakdown.
For the time period 2015 to 2019, there were a total of 337 bachelor degrees awarded in African-American Studies or Black Studies, along with a total of 20 doctorate degrees awarded in the same area, according to the central office. There were 48 master’s degrees awarded.
The Fix counted 433 bachelor degrees in these programs. In either case, the degrees represent .1 percent of the nearly 330,000 undergraduate degrees awarded for the time period.
An education blog found in 2018 that the most popular majors at many University of California universities included economics, computer sciences, psychology and management.
Money pours into unpopular degree programs
One university that The Fix looked at, the University of California Berkeley, received $2.8 million from the Mellon Foundation for a “Black Studies Collaboratory.”
But even at that university, there is little interest in achieving a degree in Black Studies. According to data obtained by The Fix, Cal-Berkeley has awarded 59 degrees to students who achieved an undergraduate degree and majored in African-American studies, since 2015.
It also awarded 30 degrees to students who graduated with an African-American studies minor. UC Berkeley has offered the African-American Studies program since 1970, nearly 51 years.
The total number of UC Berkeley undergraduate degrees from 2015-2020 was 40,349. From the same period, African Americans studies made up 0.15 percent of undergraduate degrees.
University of California Merced offers a minor in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and UC-Santa Cruz offers a major in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and a minor in Black Studies.
However, no one has graduated from Santa Cruz with an African-American Studies degree in the past five years.
“The University did not confer any degrees in African-American Studies during the requested time period,” Tyler Burke, a Santa Cruz spokesperson, told The College Fix via email.
Riverside has awarded 19 degrees to students who graduated with an African-American studies major for the time period requested.
It also offers a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies major and minor. UCR has 48 declared majors, and seven declared minors in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies.
UCLA has awarded 195 undergraduate degrees in African-American studies from 2015-2020. It has awarded 133 minor degrees in African-American studies and 34 master’s degrees.
Of the nine undergraduate colleges in the UC system, UCLA had the highest percentage of students graduating with undergraduate degrees in one of the ethnic studies programs profiled, comprising 4.2 percent of all undergraduate degrees awarded for the same time period.
One university, UC Merced, does not offer a degree in black studies or African-American studies.
“The university does not currently offer a major or graduate degree in this [African-American Studies] program,” UC Merced Records Analyst Jordan Thaw told The Fix via email,
The university does offer a major in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies — though only five students have graduated with that degree in the past five years.
University of San Diego doesn’t even track participation in minors
The University of California San Diego offers only a minor in African-American studies — but has no idea how many students actually take advantage of the program.
Similarly, UC San Diego has no major or doctoral program in African-American studies, but it does offer a minor.
“UC San Diego has no major or doctoral program in African-American Studies but does offer a minor. There are no existing reports that show the number of completed/awarded African-American Studies minors for the timeframe requested,” UCSD Policy and Records Administration Director Paula Johnson told The College Fix via email.
On April 15 the university announced the creation of a new major in Black Diaspora and African American Studies.
The College Fix found that UCLA is the only UC school to have awarded more than 100 degrees in African-American studies across the five-year period.
University of California, San Barbara has awarded 80 undergraduate degrees in African-American studies from 2015-2020, though this only covers two years. The university did not have all five years of data. It awarded 71 minor degrees in African-American studies and eight doctorate degrees.
UCSB Public Records Act Coordinator Monica Dussert told The Fix via email that the university does not have any direct doctorate degrees in Black Studies.
“Black Studies is a Ph.D. emphasis that can be added to several programs: Communications, History, Feminist Studies, Political Science, Sociology, and Chicana and Chicano Studies (in the College of Letters and Science), and the Department of Education (in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education),” she said.
Dussert did not provide the number of people who added the above emphases to the degree.
University of California, Davis has awarded 80 degrees to students who achieved an undergraduate degree and majored in African-American studies between 2015-2020.
The total number of University of California, Irvine undergraduate degrees from 2015-2020 was 18,220. From the same period, African American studies made up 0.14 percent of undergraduate degrees.
Research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that “Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies” degrees is one of the “lowest-earning majors” for black students.
IMAGE: California Assembly Democrats / YouTube