What do Hebrew, Persian, biology teaching, classics and Latin American studies have in common? They are some of the few declared majors at the U with fewer than eight students who graduated last semester.
The Middle East Studies Hebrew major had just three undergraduates graduate in Fall 2011.
"Students choose our major because they have a great interest in the Middle East, due to knowing someone from the Middle East, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or been raised in the Middle East," said June Marvel, academic adviser in the Middle East Center.
A student who declared his major in Hebrew is transferring to the U because Weber State doesn't have Middle East Studies. He traveled through the Middle East on his own and became interested in learning more, Marvel said.
Many low-enrollment majors are more difficult subjects or languages that turn students away. Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese are among the lowest declared majors at the U.
"None of these languages are easy to learn, and that limits people," Marvel said. "Arabic is right behind Chinese in difficulty."
Shoji Azuma, a professor of Japanese, agrees.
"The language is difficult, it takes quite some time and commitment," Azuma said. "In the same amount of years, if you study Spanish, you can reach a much higher level of fluency."
However, finding employment doesn't seem to be a problem, as the demand for jobs related to many low-enrollment majors seem to be high.
Many businesses have shown interest in graduates because of their language skills, Marvel said.
"There is a demand, but what they are looking for is very high level of Japanese fluency. It would be quite difficult to reach that level," Azuma said.
This difficulty can decrease enrollment and can force departments to combine classes with multiple majors or drop the majors altogether. Though dropping a major must be approved by the Academic Senate, the departments start the process.
For the most part, majors are kept at the U as long as students continue to declare them, said Ed Barbanell, associate dean of undergraduate studies.
"In all the cases I can think of when we have initially gotten rid of a major is because nobody has graduated with that degree in five years," Barbanell said.
American Sign Language Teaching degree has just started the process of being dropped since no students have declared the major in years.
"We are not in the business to disappear," Marvel said. "We are still teaching the four languages and trying to get knowledgeable professors to come and be a part of the Middle Eastern Studies Department."
Students sometimes choose these low-enrollment subjects as an elective or minor, as many of the language classes fulfill general education requirements.
Class sizes stay moderate, and it looks as if, at least for now, the low-enrollment majors will continue to provide a unique and interesting experience for the few students who choose them.