Starting with students who enter Elon University in Fall 2024, cinema and television arts majors will no longer be able to pursue a bachelor of fine arts degree. 

Currently, students in the bachelor of fine arts program take the same courses as students in the bachelor of arts program, with a couple additional requirements; BFA students must take 60 complete hours in CTA instead of 54, they must participate in an immersive program such as Elon study away programs, Elon in LA or the Prague film experience, and take two, two credit thesis classes in the fall and spring of their senior year, where they conceptualize and complete their thesis films.

Professor Staci Saltz, chair of the CTA department, said aside from the thesis class, all of the additional elective courses and study away experiences will be offered and recommended to bachelor of arts students after the BFA is discontinued. 

“We do not feel like we're losing anything by removing the BFA program,” Saltz said. “Our curriculum is extremely strong, and it is beneficial to all of the students’ interests. And our students that complete BFAs and ABs are going on to do equally impressive things.”

The decision to discontinue the program was not simple, Saltz said. A BFA committee with faculty members and advisers discussed curriculum, the depth of the thesis project and the amount of resources available to the students in the program, such as money, equipment, rental spaces — resources Saltz said included “anything that would be needed to create a successful BFA thesis project.” In the end, Saltz said the committee decided it was not a program that should continue.

“I want to make sure that it's clear how thoughtful it was and that there's nothing wrong with the program in any way — it just wasn't the best use of resources,” Saltz said. “We are not a film school. If you go to the curriculum that is associated with BFA and film schools, there's a lot more depth to the program.”

Senior BFA student Caleb Martin said he understands that sentiment. In his four years in the program, he said the resources available to students have declined, but he doesn’t believe it is enough of an issue that the program should be discontinued.

“While some recent BFAs have been shot in [on-campus] apartments; ones in the past like they've gone through mountains, they've shot professionally,” Martin said, but added, “I don't think the lack of resources really matters.” 

In any given year, of around 200 students in the CTA department, only between 15 and 20 seniors pursue BFAs in the thesis course, according to Saltz. The type of students who would pursue a BFA are the type who in the future would reach out to faculty to independently create a thesis-style project, Saltz said.

“We feel that we can still provide as a faculty many immersive BFA-style projects … for the group of students that really want that selective work,” Saltz said.

Martin said while he agrees there will always be some students who make sure they get the experiences that the BFA provides, he said the program provided the additional structure and push that he needed to create a thesis film.

“I feel like without a classroom structure, I wouldn't reach out to the professor and say, ‘Hey, help me jumpstart this project I'm really passionate about,’” Martin said. “I think the program helps with facilitating deadlines and stuff like that, which is present in the actual film world.”

Like Martin, junior Claire Cohen said she feels the additional rigor of the BFA program has pushed her to do more for her degree.

“I feel more motivated now,” Cohen said. “Because I have almost these high stakes, it's set my goals high, and that is the BFA. My goal and my future is BFA. It motivates me to do better, try harder.”

Cohen said she’s worried that with the removal of the BFA thesis course, there will be fewer films for students throughout the whole department to work on.

“It frankly just removes 15 or so different productions from the year, which isn't a lot, but it adds up,” Cohen said. “And it's the best opportunity for underclassmen to work with and meet underclassmen.”

But Saltz said she doesn’t expect the amount of films produced each year to drop off. Student organizations, such as Cinelon and Elon Student Television, will continue to provide opportunities for students to work on film and television sets and projects.

“I think we will still have a robust group of students that will be doing films, whether it be for classes, whether it be for these creative projects, whether it be for Cinelon, whether it's for ESTV, whether it be for personal gain,” Saltz said. “I think that our students will still be completing and producing high quality work for years to come.”

Cohen was a teaching assistant for the communication fellows section of Elon 1010 last fall and said she told her students not to place so much weight on a BFA versus AB degree, and she stands by that statement for incoming students who won’t have the option.

“Getting a BFA is not going to make or break your life,” Cohen said. “I was able to honestly tell them that the only thing they'll miss is the opportunity to professionally develop an idea from conception to distribution and network with people, create a work of their own, and they can still go off and make their movies.”