The enrollment of the University of Florida IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) has continued to trend upward over the last several years, resulting in the college’s largest enrollment to date – 6,167 students. These numbers reflect the growing interest students have in understanding how food and agriculture impact the world.
UF’s recent ranking as a Top 10 public university in U.S. News and World Report places it as one of two land-grant universities in the Top 10 this year. In addition, the university is ranked fourth in the nation and 11th in the world for agricultural science reputation and research, according to a global U.S. News and World Report ranking.
“Top 10 status helps us recruit even more of the best and brightest students and faculty,” said UF/IFAS CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “We share the university’s vision to be a premier institution, and our vision is to be the premier land-grant college of agricultural and related sciences in the country. I believe that in the areas of teaching and learning we are already leading the way.”
The college saw a four percent increase in undergraduate enrollment – 4,148 students, and a six percent increase in graduate enrollment – 1,611 students.
One of the largest increases in CALS enrollment was the number of non-degree seeking students, increasing 28 percent. Many non-degree seeking students are pursuing an online undergraduate or graduate certificate.
“This growth in the number of non-degree seeking students speaks to the fact that people who are already in careers are finding the additional education from an online certificate program as beneficial to their career paths,” Turner said.
The college offers 23 undergraduate majors and 22 graduate majors representing the breadth of the whole university. These majors range from wildlife ecology and conservation to agricultural education and communication, food and resource economics, and entomology and nematology.
This year, CALS saw increases in student enrollment in nearly every major. The agricultural operations management, animal sciences, microbiology and cell science, marine sciences, and environmental horticulture majors saw the most significant increases. The addition of most CALS majors to the Pathways to Campus Enrollment (PaCE) program last year has increased the college’s freshman enrollment. PaCE provides freshmen with the opportunity to begin a UF undergraduate degree online with a transition to campus after completing 60 credits and prerequisite courses for their major.
Students state several reasons for their decision to attend UF with a major in CALS. Top reasons include employability immediately after graduation, having a passion for agriculture and the environment, and the high caliber of the college’s degree programs.
“I wanted to major in agricultural operations management because I have been working on a farm for the last seven years, and I wanted a major that incorporated elements of agriculture with business,” said Ty Hostettler, a freshman who came to UF through the PaCE program. “I believed this was the surest path to success in real-world agriculture.”
Amie Imler, an academic adviser in the animal sciences department, said the undergraduate animal sciences major has seen a lot of growth in the food animal and equine specializations. The major helps students understand future career options through a course of careers in the animal industry that brings in companies and alumni to speak with students. Imler also attributes the enrollment increase in these specializations to the department’s involvement in youth 4-H and FFA livestock projects and competition teams, which helps students to meet faculty and see career paths with the major at an early age.
“We’re one of the best equine programs in the country,” Imler said. “A student can learn about the full production cycle of a horse from conception to sale using a combination of courses and hands-on practicums at our equine units, and they can do the same thing with our beef, dairy, meats, and swine processing units. When they go to apply for jobs, they’ve been exposed to the entire process, from nutrition of the animal to management of the business.”
In the last five years, the undergraduate marine sciences program has grown from 19 students to 95. Because of this interest from students, the program is in the process of transitioning from an interdisciplinary studies degree to a stand-alone marine sciences degree.
Environmental horticulture faculty has increased outreach to actively recruit graduate students, said John Peterson, professor, and director of the plant science major. Several new staff and faculty members have been diligent in pairing students with faculty who match their interests, and the applications committee has moved to review new packets on a continuous basis.
The microbiology and cell science online programs for both undergraduate and graduate studies have seen significant increases in the last several years. The online undergraduate program grew from 12 students in 2011 to 107 this year. The online graduate program expanded from 32 students to 244 since its beginning in 2015.
Department chair, Eric Triplett, attributes this success to partnerships with Florida’s public colleges and the UF College of Medicine, the hiring of new faculty that allowed for increased graduate program offerings, and marketing strategy, among other factors.
“We are keen on partnerships that give us the opportunity to recruit students from underrepresented minorities,” Triplett said. “We have a diverse faculty and we realize that diversity at all levels makes us strong – a better department with better programs. We really work at getting the best courses we can that make a difference in the careers of our students.”