MPCC adds Associate of Applied Science Degree in Agriculture

new ag degree
Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Students will soon be able to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Agriculture through Mid-Plains Community College.

Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education unanimously approved the program proposal Thursday. The program was subsequently approved by the Higher Learning Commission.

MPCC has offered ag classes for a number of years, but up to this point, students have only been able to earn an associate degree in Business with an emphasis in Agribusiness.

“Demand is definitely there,” said Paul Knopick, director of Early Entry and Program Development. “MPCC serves an 18-county service area. Across the country, the average number of ag-related jobs for a region that size is about 1,700. In MPCC’s case, there are more than 4,000 ag-related jobs, so the need is double that of any other comparable size area in the nation.”

The purpose of the new program is to provide an agriculture degree that also allows for training in related applied technology fields.

Students will have the option of pursuing an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Agriculture with emphases in Applied Agriculture-Diesel and Applied Agriculture-Welding.

The need for agriculture training paired with diesel and welding was determined through research and feedback from current students, alumni, local industries and the ag community.

In many of Nebraska’s rural areas, population density is quite low, often making it impossible for an individual to work full-time in a single, specialized field. A program that provides students the ability to gain skills not only in agriculture, but also in related fields should result in people trained to fill the multiple roles often required in rural areas.

Coupling welding and diesel with agriculture will provide MPCC students with a well-rounded training that will make them better qualified for such jobs. Within the college’s service area, the demand for those two occupations is 300 percent higher than the rest of the country’s average - with 1,190 open positions.

The new program will also benefit dual credit students interested in taking ag classes through MPCC, by expanding the opportunities available to them.

“One of the best parts of all this is that no additional money will be needed to implement the degree,” Knopick said. “We are basically putting a few degrees together to match industry need. Existing facilities will be utilized, and while we are searching for an ag/business instructor, the person hired will be a replacement for a former position.”

In approving the program, Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education determined the program is “unique to the college” and would complement what the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s West Central Research and Extension Center and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture are already doing.

The first classes related to the new degree will be offered in the fall. Both in-person and online options will be available.