Going to college looks different for every student. Some choose a four-year university, and others prefer a community college near their hometown. There are advantages to both options and the decision can be difficult.
But students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in a variety of agriculture programs from Middle Tennessee State University or The University of Tennessee at Martin get the best of both worlds – the convenience and smallness of a community college and the upper-level courses from a four-year university.
The universities’ agriculture departments are exploring 2+2 programs, which create partnerships between universities and community colleges to provide students with more options to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Although these 2+2 programs were developed before the Tennessee Promise scholarships were created, they fit perfectly with that model, which provides two years of tuition-free education at a community college or technical school in Tennessee.
Middle Tennessee State University
Middle Tennessee State University’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience founded its 2+2 program in the fall of 2013. “We are trying to get agriculture taught outside of the standard university atmosphere,” says Warren Gill, director of the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience at MTSU.
Currently, students can earn a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from MTSU without leaving Columbia State Community College’s Lewisburg campus, and more community college partnerships are in the works.
Kara Youngblood, who coordinates MTSU’s 2+2 program and travels to Columbia State’s Lewisburg campus to teach MTSU agribusiness classes, says the program allows the university to reach a wider range of students by offering satellite classes at the community college as well as online courses.
“There are only so many people who can travel to a university and give up four years of their life for education,” Youngblood says. “We’re able to pull in those people who need to remain close to home. Our goal is for them to only have to travel to Murfreesboro to walk across the graduation stage.”
The University Of Tennessee At Martin
UT-Martin has approached 2+2 differently. Students earn an associate degree in agriculture at Jackson State Community College or Dyersburg State Community College, and then transfer to UT-Martin to finish their upper-level agriculture classes in agribusiness, farm and ranch management, or animal science.
Agriculture, Geosciences and Natural Resources Department Chair Joey Mehlhorn says for the past seven years, 10 to 15 students per year have transferred to UT-Martin after earning an associate degree in agriculture. Many of these students would not have been able to enter UT-Martin as freshmen.
“Because some students aren’t great at standardized testing, they’re not going to be able to go directly to a four-year institution,” Mehlhorn says. “Many students see this program as a great first step – they can begin college without having to pack up and move away immediately.”
Agriculture students who transfer to UT-Martin as part of the 2+2 program are more likely to graduate, Mehlhorn says.
“Their probability of being successful here after finishing an associate degree goes up a great deal,” he says. “It’s that getting acclimated to school thing. Once they get through those first two years, they typically don’t have problems.”