Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Jack Wiley doesn’t understand how an agriculture-based economy doesn’t have a local agriculture science degree program.
On Tuesday, Wiley, the new Trinidad State Junior College vocational agriculture teacher, spoke with Valley superintendents at their monthly meeting about increasing agriculture science programs and the opportunities for high school students to participate in concurrent enrollment classes.
According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Adams State University (ASU) “shall not offer vocational education programs” and Colorado State University (CSU) remains consistent with the tradition of land grant universities. “CSU has exclusive authority to offer graduate and undergraduate programs in agriculture, forestry, natural resources and veterinary medicine,” according to the department.
The department also states, “Adams State University shall offer programs, when feasible, that preserve and promote the unique history and culture of the region,” without further definition or reference to the Valley’s rich agriculture history and culture.
CSU retains exclusive rights to vocational programs strictly because it is a land grant institution. In 1861, congress passed the Morrill Act that created a system of colleges and universities within the United States that would focus on agriculture, mechanical arts and military tactics in addition to the more traditional classical or scientific disciplines. The purpose was not to train more farmers or mechanics, but to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.
ASU, however, is allowed to offer agriculture business degree programs. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an Agribusiness Emphasis. The degree includes business, accounting, management, economics, computer, income tax, marketing, commodities; and farm management, science and business courses.
Although TSJC cannot offer a degree in agricultural sciences, Wiley, a seasoned vocational agriculture teacher with over 20 years in administration, said he would do what he can to provide the Valley’s higher education students with the opportunity to study agriculture sciences without leaving the Valley.
“TSJC is going to try to fill the void,” Wiley said. “This spring we will offer a variety of classes that will transfer within the state. We will do what we can to help students.”
Helping higher education students is a part of Wiley’s resume. When he was the Clayton Municipal Schools superintendent in New Mexico, he was heavily involved with concurrent enrollment classes between the high school and an area community college. The program resulted in most of the district’s college bound students graduating from high school with 20 plus hours of completed college credits. These students entered college as sophomores and their American College Test (ACT) scores increased.
“If the students started English 101, they were ready for English 102 in college,” Wiley said. “It was all positive. It was inexpensive and doable for parents. It was also great PR for the school.”
He added the majority of students that entered college with credits were more likely to complete their degrees.
“It gets the general education classes out of the way before they get to college,” Wiley said. “And, some that don’t know they are college material might find they are ready. We think this is important for the students, the college and the schools. I don’t see a downside to it.”