Savannah State University facing possible program cuts for majors like Africana Studies

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 7:23 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah State University leaders are being faced with possibly cutting programs like English, History and Africana Studies. Former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson who used to attend and teach at Savannah State tells WTOC the school is facing declining enrollment and an $11 million deficit.

“Savannah State is a very powerful institution to this community,” Johnson said.

A letter sent from Savannah State’s provost Yolanda Page to the university’s President Kimberly Ballard-Washington shows low enrollment in programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences or CLASS. In Spring 2022 only eight people were enrolled in the Africana Studies program. 21 people were enrolled in English, Language and Literature and seven people were enrolled in the history program.

Savannah State University enrollment for Africana Studies, English and History programs.
Savannah State University enrollment for Africana Studies, English and History programs.(WTOC)

Otis Johnson also used to be the dean of the college these cuts are proposed in. While disturbed to hear about the cuts, he says he respects the recommendation because of the low enrollment numbers.

“I clearly understand why the decisions that the dean and the department chairs have made,” Otis Johnson said.

If these programs were no longer offered, students will still be able to take classes on these topics like Africana Studies

In a document titled Strategic Realignment Recommendations dated October 28th, the dean of the college referred to as CLASS David Marshall also mentions letting adjuncts go which would save them hundreds of thousand of dollars.

He stated cutting the programs would save the university over $900 thousand in total.

Johnson says there are questions that need to be answered to help with the university’s funding.

“Why do we have an $11 million deficit? What can we do to reduce that deficit? What is the regents [Board of Regents] going to do to help Savannah State?” Otis Johnson said.

Mayor Van Johnson wasn’t happy to hear Africana studies may be one of the programs getting the short end of the stick. Also Marshall’s report, he says “Africana Studies has a storied history at Savannah State University, with many positive attributes. However, the number of majors and annual graduates do not support maintaining this program as a major. However, Savannah State is one of the few institutions nationally that requires all its graduates to take a course in this area.. The university’s deliberate choice to include this in the core curriculum is the tangible commitment to exposing students to this experiential and topical area. A major is not required to accomplish this.”

Mayor Johnson says Savannah State needs more state funding.

“These are state universities and they need state help,” Van Johnson said. “We have the money. We have the money.”

Otis Johnson says the lower the enrollment, the less funds the school can receive.

“If the budget is going to be based on student enrollment, they’ve got to increase their student enrollment,” Otis Johnson said. “There are a number of things that need to be addressed examined.”

Otis says alumni, community, state legislators and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents need to rally for Savannah’s beloved college and Georgia’s first historically Black college or HBCU.

“How we can raise more money for scholarships and other things that are needed to recruit students,” Otis Johnson said.

We did receive a statement from Savannah State saying the president received these recommendations from the provost and no decision to cut these academic programs have been made at this time. I also asked for the University’s enrollment numbers and was told I’d receive them next week.