MARIETTA - Washington State Community College's agribusiness program is coming to an end due to low enrollment.
Students already in the program will be able to complete their courses, but the school is no longer accepting new students in the track, said John Tigue, vice president for academic affairs at the college.
The two-year agribusiness degree - which included study in small business entrepreneurship, crop and pest management, environmental biology and marketing - was introduced in the fall of 2009. At that point, nine students indicated they wanted to pursue the degree.
The next year, when a lab was constructed to provide hands-on training in areas like soil sciences and crop production, 14 more students went into the program. That number dropped to 13 the next year and only seven or eight this year, Tigue said.
"That's not even enough to really fill a class," he said. "When we identified that, we decided that it really wasn't a sustainable program."
The full-time faculty member who oversaw the program has moved on, with other credentialed instructors working with the remaining students, Tigue said.
Agriculture is a major part of the economy in the area, and Tigue said responding to the needs of the community is an important part of the college's mission.
"We also have to recognize that we have to discontinue those (programs) that are no longer viable," he said.
Brian Welch, agriculture educator at Marietta High School, said one factor in lower interest in the program could be the significant start-up costs associated with going into farming.
"I'm running between five and six hundred head of cattle, and I'm still working a day job. And that would be unheard of 20 years ago," he said. "It does discourage a lot of kids."
Welch said he does have a number of students going into ag-related fields, but many of them are focusing on veterinary medicine.
There are still options available for students interested in agribusiness, Welch said, including online courses and work experience on local farms, in addition to four-year programs through The Ohio State University and OSU's Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.
Tigue said Washington State will look at other options for the ag lab and ways to meet the community's needs in agricultural areas. What form that will take has not been determined.
"People who are interested in agriculture will still have some pathways; it just won't be through the agribusiness program," Tigue said.