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COA: Chance for ag program start in 2018

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Robert Wynegar

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Depending on what happens in June, College of The Albemarle may be able to start its new agriculture curriculum next fall after all.

COA officials indicated last month that the 2019-20 school year likely would be the earliest the community college could launch a planned agribusiness program featuring a seamless transfer track for students to enroll at N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

However, COA President Robert Wynegar said Tuesday he submitted an application to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges last week that seeks to persuade the college’s accrediting agency the new agribusiness curriculum is substantially the same as a sustainable agriculture curriculum COA previously presented to SACS COC for its review.

SACS COC’s board will vote on COA’s application at its June board meeting, Wynegar said. If the application is approved then, COA could launch the agribusiness curriculum this fall.

Wynegar seemed optimistic about the application’s chances of getting a positive review by the accrediting agency. 

“They agreed to let us submit it even though it’s a little bit out of their normal procedure,” Wynegar said.

At issue is the extent to which the new agribusiness curriculum differs from the sustainable agriculture curriculum COA presented previously for the accrediting agency’s approval. According to Wynegar, in order for the progress COA previously made toward accreditation of the sustainable agriculture program to count toward the new agribusiness curriculum, agribusiness cannot differ more than 25 percent from sustainable agriculture.

Whether the difference is less than 25 percent or not depends on how certain courses are counted toward a degree, but Wynegar’s application submitted last week argues that the difference is in fact less than 25 percent.

COA officials made the decision to move from a sustainable agriculture curriculum to an agribusiness one in early 2017. It placed a new requirement on the development of the curriculum, which was to have N.C. State agree to award university credit for COA courses. The sustainable agriculture curriculum had been envisioned as a terminal two-year program rather than as a transfer program.

COA expects to have a part-time faculty member in place to teach agriculture within a few weeks. That instructor will move forward with plans for the agribusiness program.

Wynegar said while it may seem unusual to have a faculty member hired before the college knows it will even have the agribusiness program, that is what SACS COC requires.

If the accrediting agency’s board approves COA’s new agribusiness curriculum in June the college will hire a full-time faculty member over the summer and launch the program this fall, according to Wynegar.

A negative vote by the accrediting agency’s board would not be the end of the line, however.

According to Wynegar, if the current application isn’t approved he plans to submit a new application that would go before the SACS COC board at its December meeting. If approved then, the agribusiness program could begin at the start of the 2019-20 academic year, he said.

COA has also submitted a new application for the agribusiness program to the State Office of Community Colleges, but unlike the lengthier SACS COC process that review takes only a couple of months.

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