The College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan is well on the path to exceeding its long-term enrolment goals.
The target is 830 undergraduate students by the 2015-16 school year, which is only 30 less than the current enrolment.
"We have been seeing steady increases over the last five years," says Murray Drew, associate dean (academic). "From 2011 to 2012, we have seen a 10 per cent increase to about 250 first-year students."
There are also 210 students in second year, 180 in third year and 160 fourth-year students. Approximately 55 per cent of the agriculture students are women.
The most popular area is animal science, which covers beef, swine and poultry. About 25 per cent of animal science students indicated at orientation that they plan to enter veterinary medicine. The University of Saskatchewan is home to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
Other fields of study include agronomy, ag business, ag economics, rural resource management and a two-year ag diploma program. The diploma program is designed for students intending to return to the farm, but a number decide to stay longer and pursue their four-year degree. A new degree program in animal biosciences will be added next year.
"This will be a slightly different flavour than our traditional animal science degree," Drew says. "We would prepare students more to work in veterinary-related fields, pharmaceuticals, genetic companies, those kinds of things."
Drew credits good employment opportunities as one of the main reasons for higher enrolment. Two-thirds of students come from a rural background while the remaining third grew up in urban areas.
"I think the word is getting around that agriculture isn't just farming anymore," Drew says. "There are many opportunities to get involved in agriculture and the job market is very solid. I think a lot of urban students have got that message and are getting into agriculture."
University officials are confident about exceeding the long-term enrollment goal.
"The constraint will be packing them into the classrooms," Drew says. "We designed our classrooms with the number of students we had 15 years ago in mind, but it is a happy problem to have."