Farmers voice concerns about changes to UW Short Course

Farmers and ag organizations had their first chance to hear why the University of Wisconsin wants to change the Farm and Industry Short Course program.

The 135-year-old program has been an accredited on-campus 16-week residential format, but College of Ag and Life Sciences officials announced they will make it a non-residential program without accreditation featuring a mixture of in-person and virtual instruction.

More than 100 farmers and agriculture group leaders joined an online informational meeting Tuesday, including UW River Falls alumni Kevin Ballman of Red Wing, Minnesota who promoted the short course during his time at UW River Falls in the late 1990s. “I’m extremely frustrated with the way the university is handling this and the way this program is going and I don’t think it’s to the benefit of any agriculture at this point in time. I think this thing should really be reconsidered.”

Cheri Klussendorf completed the short course with her husband Ryan, and she says their son was preparing to attend this upcoming fall. “He attended the preview day on the 11th, was shown the dorms, walked through the classrooms, really came home with ‘I can’t wait to do this, I’m super excited’ and applied, and got the rug pulled out from underneath him. Now, he had applied for scholarships through his high school that he is now not eligible to collect because you’re no longer a for-credit program.”

Jennifer Blazek is the Farm and Industry Short Course Director.  She says enrollment has been falling and is currently around 20 students. “When we ran the numbers to figure out how to do the costs because again, this program has to generate its own revenue, we would need 100 students to cover the cost.”

Tuesday’s meeting was a listening session, and university officials gave no sign of changing the decision and keeping the present program structure.

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