Morningside to offer degree in agricultural education
Morningside College recently received approval from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners to offer a degree in agricultural education, preparing students to teach agriculture at the middle and high school levels. The major will be offered beginning in the fall.
Consultants at the Iowa Department of Education strongly encouraged Morningside to develop this program in response to a severe shortage of teachers in this area, said Dr. LuAnn Haase, chair of the Sharon Walker School of Education at Morningside.
“Morningside College welcomes the opportunity to become a leader in the preparation of secondary agriculture teachers in the state of Iowa and in this region of our country,” Haase said. “Continued collaboration between Morningside College and its K-12 school district partners benefits students, agriculture-related businesses, and, ultimately, our economy as Morningside graduates help close the gap in this labor market need.”
Agricultural education has been a teacher shortage area in Iowa for 14 of the last 17 years, in South Dakota for the last nine years, and in Nebraska for three of the last four years.
At the same time, demand is growing, said Dr. Tom Paulsen, associate professor and chair of the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies Program at Morningside.
“Schools are starting to understand that the agricultural sector, broadly defined, has tremendous career opportunities,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects about 58,000 job openings per year for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture – and only about 35,000 graduates to fill those openings.
That could explain the rapid growth of Morningside’s agricultural and food studies program, according to Paulsen. He said the program has grown from about 10 students when it started in 2014 to almost 70 students four years later.
Most agriculture programs are at large public universities. It is rare to find a small college with professors whose full-time job is to teach courses in agriculture, according to Paulsen. He said Morningside is a truly unique option for students who want the small-college experience.
The program offers an overview of agriculture that is accessible even to students with limited experience in the field. Then students minor in specialties such as agribusiness, agronomy, environmental policy and law, food safety, political science or mass communication.
Paulsen called education a logical growth area.
“We have an excellent education department here at Morningside College. Very well respected,” he said. “We’re partnering with that experience.”
Iowa teacher shortage areas are designated annually by the Iowa Department of Education. Teachers in shortage areas like agricultural education may be eligible for college student forgivable loans. Information regarding application for forgivable loans is available at the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website, iowacollegeaid.gov.