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College of Agriculture hits milestone undergrad enrollment

Purdue University's College of Agriculture welcomed 2,803 undergraduate students this fall, marking its largest undergraduate enrollment since 1980. Hoosier students make up 76 percent of those enrolled, and 60 percent are female students.

"That incoming students seek out our college speaks volumes about the work our faculty and staff have done to ensure our educational programs are real and relevant, both for students and for prospective employers," said Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture at Purdue. "However, there is more work to be done. Agriculture is a high-tech industry, and we want to continue to attract the best and brightest in many different fields to agriculture."

"There have been tremendous changes in agriculture and ag-related fields," said Marcos Fernandez, an associate dean and director of the College of Agriculture's Office of Academic Programs. "The strong interest in our college among students validates that we continue to be a national and international leader in adapting to the challenges in agriculture and making sure our students are equipped to do the same."

Evolving student interests and changes in the world of agriculture have driven continued and growing interest in the college's wide range of programs, such as food science and agricultural economics, as well as biochemistry, which, this year, doubled its incoming student enrollment, Fernandez said. The college houses the nation's No. 1 agricultural and biological engineering program, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the QS world rankings lists the College of Agriculture as No. 9 in the world.

Amy Jo Jones, who recently was named to head the college's undergraduate recruitment efforts and is assistant director of the Office of Academic Programs, said the enrollment numbers only tell part of the story.


Purdue Agriculture this fall welcomed its largest undergraduate enrollment in 38 years and a large segment of them are women. Here, students in an animal science class evaluate beef cattle in the Land O’Lakes Pavilion on campus. (Purdue University photo/Tom Campbell) Purdue Agriculture this fall welcomed its largest undergraduate enrollment in 38 years and a large segment of them are women. Here, students in an animal science class evaluate beef cattle in the Land O’Lakes Pavilion on campus. (Purdue University photo/Tom Campbell)

"This is about the quality of students, not just the quantity," she said. "We survey incoming students to ask why they selected Purdue and our College of Agriculture. One of the top answers is consistently because they want to make a difference in their careers and their lives. They are here for the right reason, and that is why we are here, too – to help them make a difference."

Jones said that students are supported with an aggressive scholarship pool, an internal support system to help and engage students, and a relationship with industry partners. On Tuesday (Oct. 2), the college held its annual career fair, with more than 150 companies attending. These factors combine to make the College of Agriculture students a sought-after commodity, with a 97 percent placement rate for graduates.

"There really is a legacy of success, and when you combine that with support and opportunity, students feel empowered to learn and to achieve," Jones said.

Among the college's undergraduates are 602 new freshmen, however, that number does not include two additional groups. The first is those planning to study agricultural and biological engineering who initially are enrolled in the university's First-Year Engineering program. The second is a group of 45 students in the Pathway to Purdue Agriculture program who do coursework both on Purdue's campus and at Ivy Tech-Lafayette.

Students in Purdue's College of Agriculture can choose from more than 30 majors that span the disciplines of science, engineering, technology, education, management and communication. The college is home to the only field phenotyping facility at a U.S. university. Its academic departments include agricultural and biological engineering, agricultural economics, agricultural sciences education and communication, agronomy, animal sciences, biochemistry, botany and plant pathology, entomology, food science, forestry and natural resources, horticulture and landscape architecture, and natural resources and environmental science.

Purdue is ranked the No. 4 Best Value institution in the U.S. in the latest Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education list, released in September. The ranking listed Purdue at the No. 6 nationally among public universities. 

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