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Serving: IN

Unique Agreement Funds Full-time Ag Educator in Vigo County

First arrangement of its kind in Indiana is win-win.

Vigo County only supplies enough money for a three-quarters time Extension ag educator. But thanks to a unique partnership, Jim Luzar, the current county ag educator, is full-time on the staff. He sees it as a win-win for the county and community.

Luzar, a veteran Extension educator, is funded for the remaining quarter of his salary by Ivy Tech. His job is to help teach agricultural classes to students enrolling for that new option at Ivy Tech. The community college institution has just recently begun offering agriculture courses at select campuses. One of those is the Terre Haute campus.

Luzar expects to teach agricultural economics this fall. Meanwhile, he's considered par tof the ivy Tech faculty, but yet has flexibility to serve ag interests as Extension educator. He believes it's a win-win situation all the way around.

"Ivy Tech gets more exposure in the community, and an instructor," he says. "The Extension program has access to Ivy Tech facilities through my affiliation. It's already proven useful in that our Master Gardener program utilizes their facilities."

Students interested in agriculture through Ivy Tech have two options, Luzar says. They can enroll in a two-year program designed to help them prepare for a full college career. Credits accumulated in that program transfer to Purdue. Or they can enroll in a two-year associate's degree program where credits don't transfer.

Courses for that path are more geared to the chosen field of study, Luzar indicates. It may even become sort of an internship arrangement for some students. A student pursuing that option typically intends to enter ag business after completion of his studies in one capacity or another.

The funding arrangement, allowing the county to have an ag educator's position filled full-time, may be ahead of its time. It's possible other counties may be looking for ways to keep or add educators in the future. County budgets are expected to be very tight in many counties this fall.

At the state level, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Jay Akridge, indicates that while it's likely funding from the state will be down, he believes the situation will be manageable for the College of Agriculture and for Extension in the short term. That's not the case in some other Extension systems around the country.

Unfortunately, the dean doesn't expect any new funding for anticipated projects, such as remodeling of the Lilly hall of Life Science. But he does expect to remain in a very viable position. Actual state funding for Purdue or any other institution in Indiana won't be clear until the legislature convenes for a special session and completes its assignment- passing a budget for the next two years.

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