High school students in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois can earn free college credits in agriculture from Western Illinois University.
Andrew Baker, director of the School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University, said the free tuition was an incentive to enroll and was made possible through a donation by the Moline Foundation.
“The free portion of the offering was through the donation from the Moline Foundation, and they thought it was important to get kind of this pilot program started,” Baker said.
Baker said there are pockets of students at high schools in the area who are interested in agriculture, whether it be through hunting and fishing, or just a love of animals.
“So, there are these students that we perceive that are really not being served at their particular high school and we want to at least give that opportunity to those students,” Baker said.
The program is set to start next fall, and Baker said the planning process took about two years and involved coordinating between the Illinois and Iowa school systems. Baker said about 50 percent of the curriculum usually includes lab time at a university farm, but the school’s Quad Cities campus does not have a university farm.
“We are trying to kind of work through and tweak a little bit on how we are going to be able to do that,” Baker said. “So, most of the students are going to be able to see a video instead of the real, live animal.”
Baker said no matter what side of the state the students are on, students should get an opportunity to learn about agriculture.
“For both sides, it does not matter if they go to an Iowa school or an Illinois school,” Baker said. “There are students that really just need the opportunity to explore the agricultural career field.”