CSU leader sees big changes ahead for ag education

A flowering of new interest in agriculture seems to be budding, but it’s unlikely to look like the familiar methods of recent years, Colorado State University President Tony Frank said Thursday.

New interest in agriculture is likely to crop up in a diverse range of areas, ranging from local food production as a result of the eat-local, grow-local movement, growing specific crops to address specific human-health issues, and so on, Frank said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel.

To meet the needs of a growing world population, agriculture will have to provide larger supplies of protein than it ever has before, Frank said.

Dramatically more research is going to be needed “if we’re going to feed the world’s population,” Frank said.

Frank spoke with potential students, alumni and others in the Grand Valley on Wednesday and Thursday in a tour of the area.

Dealing with increasing educational demands and shrinking opportunities for state funding likely will become more difficult, he said.

One possible result of budget tightening in higher education will be greater cooperation among institutions, and he is looking for cooperative agreements with other institutions such as the University of Colorado-Mesa State College engineering program at the Grand Junction campus, Frank said. Still, “I don’t see any way that higher education won’t get significantly cut” in the state’s 2012 budget year, Frank said.

The only way to make up for that is tuition increases that will have to be delicately balanced so as to preserve the quality of the program while also keeping the university accessible, Frank said.

The total cost of attendance, including tuition, books, room and board, is $19,000 a year at CSU, or a cost of nearly $80,000 for a four-year degree, he said.

CSU, with enrollment of about 25,000 students, has doubled its tuition in the last two decades. As a result, students now provide two-thirds of the university’s funding, whereas the state used to shoulder two-thirds, Frank said.

“Over the next couple of years, the voters ought to have a very serious conversation” about the way that the cost of higher education is spread around, Frank said.


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