We have a biochemistry program for undergraduates. It would be called a major at most universities but at the University of Toronto we call it a Biochemistry Specialist Program. Here's an outline with the number of credits, where (1) is a standard two-semester course ...
Calculus (1), Biology (1), Physics (1), Chemistry (1)
Biochemistry (1), Organic Chemistry (0.5), Physical Chemistry (0.5), Cell & Molecular Biology (1)
Biochemistry Laboratory (0.5), Proteins (0.5), Nucleic Acids (0.5), Molecular Biology (1), 1.5 extra credits from a list of science courses
Advanced Biochemistry Laboratory (1), four (0.5) credit courses from a list of biochemistry and molecular biology courses
Here's the problem. Enrolment in this program is dropping because the students perceive it as being too hard. A number of easier, less rigorous, programs have recently become available in other departments. These other programs are being promoted as excellent choices for an undergraduate degree. Students are being told that these easy program will be just as acceptable as the more difficult ones when they apply to graduate school. (That won't be true in our department.)
Students believe that they will get higher grades in these other programs and that will make it easier to get into medical school or graduate school.
What should we do? There's a possibility that our program will disappear if we do nothing. On the other hand, making it a lot easier by dumbing down the material and giving higher grades goes against the principles that many of us believe in.
Have any other schools faced this situation? What did you do? What do the students think?