COAFES enrollment at 20-year high

by Cati Vanden Breul

Enrollment in the University’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is the highest it’s been in 20 years.

The college’s faculty and administration said the increase, 25 percent in the last five years, is largely because the college has tried to improve its recruiting techniques and curriculum.

“There has been a major investment in recruiting,” animal science professor Les Hansen said.

In the past, the school has been passive in its recruiting efforts, said Charles Muscoplat, dean and vice president of the college.

But over the last few years, the University, and especially the college itself, have done a great job of outreach, Hansen said.

“There are many more targeted positive messages going out about the ‘U,’ ” Hansen said.

The University’s agricuture college targets students from 4-H and FFA organizations, as well as children of the college’s alumni.

“I spend my Thanksgiving weekend calling prospective students, and then send them individualized follow-up letters later in the year,” Hansen said.

Agriculture education junior Sarah Tesmer said an ambassador from the college at a FFA event first recruited her during her first year in high school.

“It was a really cool feeling to be sought out like that as a freshman,” Tesmer said.

Muscoplat said the college does a good job of recruiting nontraditional students.

He also said the college completely revamped its Web site and brochures. In fact, he said, he forbids pictures of cows or farms to appear on the Web site.

The college is different from a lot of other agricultural colleges because it’s in a metro area, Muscoplat said.

More opportunities are available at the Twin Cities campus for those interested in agri-business because there are food companies such as General Mills located in the metro area, he said.

The college has also made some changes in its curriculum.

“I’ve never seen more concern for students and their development in the classroom than there is now,” Hansen said.

Because tuition is increasing, it is important to do a good job in the classrom to keep students at the University, Hansen said.

Environmental science professor Ed Nater said the college has tried very hard to improve its students’ experience.

“We do everything we can to keep students first,” Nater said.

“You need research to have a University, but you need students to have one as well,” she said.

The college also has a 95 percent placement rate for its graduates, Nater said.