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College still viable option for Indiana ag students

Allie Abney
FROM FARM TO EMPLOYMENT: Allie Abney, Bargersville, Ind., a senior in agriculture at Purdue, already has a full-time job in ag industry awaiting her after graduation.
Purdue University College of Agriculture releases information on recent graduates and the current makeup of the school.

Marcos Fernandez greeted me warmly near his office in the Purdue Ag Administration Building recently. Fernandez is the associate dean and director of academic programs in the College of Agriculture.

“I’ve got something you need to see,” he said, zipping back to his office. He reappeared with several copies of a booklet. “These are hot off the press — Academic Program Highlights 2017. You need to check it out.”

I had worked with Fernandez when he visited a high school to inform students and counselors about the opportunities in Purdue Agriculture. “I remember counselors being surprised at how many opportunities students in the College of Agriculture have for careers,” he said. “What’s in this booklet proves our point.”

Indeed, I took time to check out the booklet. While the debate about whether high school graduates need to go to college today rages on, information supplied by Fernandez makes a compelling argument that, for at least those students interested in agriculture and motivated to succeed, college can still pave their way to an exciting career.

No, college isn’t for everyone. And Purdue is certainly no longer the only game in town for students interested in agriculture in Indiana. Yet it’s still a viable option for many.

Facts and figures
Here’s a look at some of the information summarized in the booklet Fernandez handed me.

Undergraduate enrollment steady at a high level. Enrollment in the Purdue College of Agriculture ranged from 2,658 students in 2012 to 2,736 students in 2016. There has been a 30% decrease in student borrowing since 2012.

High percentage still from Indiana. Rumors often float around about how many students are from out of state and other countries. Here are the facts: In 2016, 77% of undergraduate students in agriculture came from Indiana. And 77% of all Indiana students who apply are admitted to Purdue Agriculture. That’s a slightly higher rate than acceptance for nonresidents.

Fifteen percent of students come from other states. Another 8% come from any one of 52 foreign countries. That’s less than one in 10 from outside the U.S.

Rural influence still present. The makeup of Purdue ag students has changed over the years, but has it changed as much as you think? Fernandez says one-third of all Purdue ag students still come from farming homes. And nearly one student out of every two has been in 4-H. Just under four out of 10 were FFA members in high school.

Different beginnings. Just over one in 10 Purdue ag students are transfers from another university. Some 6% of those transfer from Vincennes University; others come from Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue regional campuses and several partner junior college schools in Illinois.

In 2016, 17 graduates started their career in the Purdue Pathways program at Ivy Tech in Lafayette. In 2016, 47 new students enrolled in the Pathways program. It’s a great starting program for students who still need to gear up before handling the academic rigors on a big campus, officials say.

Ag students find jobs. Some 95% of all 2016 graduates reporting earlier this year are either employed or in continuing education programs. Three out of four are employed, and one in five are continuing education.

The average beginning salary was $42,929.

“It’s a great time to be a part of Purdue Agriculture,” Fernandez said. The data appears to back him up — there are still opportunities for college ag graduates. 

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