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UWRF and FVTC move towards joint BA program

October 23, 2008

UW-River Falls and Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) are working on a 2+2 Agriculture and Transfer Agreement Program which would entail students spending two years at each school to complete a baccalaureate degree.

“What we’re attempting to do is develop a program which would allow them to receive two years of credit for their work at a technology college system and apply that, not as a course by course transfer, but as a program to program transfer into our program where they could conceivably complete their degree in another two years in a baccalaureate degree,” Associate Professor of Agriculture Engineering Technology Jerry Nechville said.

A grant that was written by Fox Valley Technical College indicates the importance of Wisconsin students receiving a four year baccalaureate degree instead of just a two year associate degree. It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent that enroll in the agriculture technology program at UWRF are from FVTC. However, there is still a need for expanding transferring so that students can achieve a baccalaureate degree at a 4 year university.

UWRF is particularly interested in FVTC because it is one of the oldest agricultural programs in the technical college system. It is well-established and has several faculty alumni that are connected to UWRF.

The difference between the two year degree at FVTC and the four year degree at UWRF is the intent in training service technicians for local dealerships.

The additional two years at UWRF is a broader education and covers all technology areas in agricultural engineering. These include power machinery, structures of the environment, electricity, information systems, soil, water, food and process engineering.

“[UWRF is] providing education for students to move into the field as application engineers or field-test engineers,” Nechville said. 

One of the criticisms of UWRF is that it does not have an extensive experience of hands-on teaching. UWRF focuses more on teaching theory of technical education. While the technical colleges are heavy on the hands-on teaching they would spend two months on a specific area where a university might only spend a month.

There is also a higher demand for a four year degree, because it would increase salary for graduates of this 2+2 Agriculture and Transfer Agreement Program. At this time there are 60 majors available to agricultural students with excellent salaries for graduates.

“With the potential of earning a higher wage [after graduation] and college expenses… it will continue to be a factor in a student’s decision to attend FVTC or UWRF,” instructor and Department Chair of FVTC’s Agriculture Program, Randy Tenpas said.

There is a strong correlation between the students from FVTC and that region enrolling at UWRF to earn a baccalaureate degree in one of the agriculture-related disciplines even though the two campuses are set more than 200 miles apart.

In 2006-07, 450 students transferred to a university from FVTC.

“The time is right to formally acknowledge this history, strengthen these ties and ensure that the flow of students continues,” Public Relations Manager Chris Jossart said. 

Many students are unaware of these opportunities and, because the program is expanding, it’s important for students to gain that knowledge.  According to Nechville, many people who go to a technical college think they are not ready for university level schooling. Some then decide that they are capable, which is why transferring is common among students at universities. Still, there are other reasons why some students transfer.

“It was affordable and I like small town colleges verses interstate universities,” UWRF Marketing Communication student Chad Quandt said.

Right now FVTC and UWRF are working to review the curriculum and are making sure that the curriculum is aligned with the guidelines for achieving a four-year baccalaureate degree. They will be looking at the courses that each individual has to offer and then see how they correspond to the program at UWRF.

“The demand continues to grow for our program graduates looking to transfer into a 4-year degree program,” Tenpas said. “This 2+2 Agriculture and Transfer Agreement will hopefully create additional opportunities for both students and staff at FVTC and UWRF.”