Times Are Changing and Agricultural Students Are Too
Schools Adapt to Attract Ag Students
Kansas State University (KSU) is doing what it can to keep the pipeline filled. From 2007 to 2012, enrollment in the College of Agriculture grew by 34 percent, and it is projected to be higher yet this coming year, said Don Boggs, associate dean, College of Ag, Academic Programs. Most of the growth has been in the animal science and food and grain science areas. Ag economics has also grown to 400 students. While the agronomy program has doubled in size in the past five to six years, there are still tremendous employment opportunities for students in that area, assured Boggs.
KSU College of Agriculture also has seen changes in its student body in recent years. Boggs credited much of the growth in non-traditional (no farm and ranch background) students to a marketing effort that began in 2007. It emphasized that you didn’t have to be from a farm or ranch to be an agricultural student. Career path possibilities were presented, which then led prospective students to the major needed to attain the career. KSU works closely with community colleges across the state, as well as with employers such as the milling industry.
“The milling industry was struggling to find new employees,” said Boggs. “We pointed out that the average 15 year-old didn’t even know what milling job opportunities were. We asked the industry to reach out to sons and daughters of employees and those of clients to help them understand the great opportunities that exist.”
The opportunity for good paying jobs is attractive to prospective students. However, what increasingly makes it stick, according to Boggs, is the fact that these jobs can make a difference in the world, whether feeding people or protecting the environment. Marcos Fernandez, associate dean and director, Office of Academic Programs, College of Agriculture, Purdue University, seconded Boggs view. He, too, cited a change in attitude among students in recent years.
“They want to make a difference, do right and change the world. They believe they can do it in agriculture and related sciences,” said Fernandez. “Although we believe the ‘better times’ in agriculture have had a positive impact on students’ outlook as to what the future may hold, the attitude change started before the ag economy improved.”
Increasing Awareness of Ag Careers
Fernandez credited a wide arrange of influences on students, ranging from articles in Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal to Michelle Obama’s White House garden, for raising awareness among non-farm background students. He suspects TV channels such as Animal Planet help attract students, especially female, to animal science, citing the 80/80/80 rule.