Washington State University’s new transfer agreements with two community colleges will create a pipeline for students to continue their education at the Richland or Pullman campuses.
The arrangement targets students at Yakima Valley and Walla Walla community colleges who earn two-year agricultural degrees related to the wine industry, officials said.
Those students will be able to continue their studies with WSU’s viticulture and enology program, which will open its Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities in fall 2015.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity it will provide students,” Lindsay Lightner, an academic adviser at the Richland campus, told the Herald.
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The viticulture and enology program at WSU Tri-Cities has about 30 students, with another 40 students in Pullman. It is the only such program in the Northwest at a four-year university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The university and community colleges have worked on a transfer agreement for years, with the three institutions needing to align their related programs, Lightner said.
The agreement specifically creates a bridge between Yakima Valley’s vineyard technology program and Walla Walla’s enology and viticulture program to WSU. A similar arrangement is being pursued with South Seattle Community College, though it is in the early stages, officials said.
College and university officials said the agreement is a big step forward for their programs.
The arrangement will be of the most benefit to place students who can’t move to Pullman to pursue their studies, said Trent Ball, YVCC agriculture program chairman. He expects at least six students in his group of about 30 to pursue attending WSU after earning their associate degrees.
There are about 60 students in Walla Walla’s program, said Jessica Gilmore, dean of business, entrepreneurial programs extended learning. She said the transfer arrangement is a big bonus for students and creates a clear path for them to earn a four-year degree.
“About 10 to 20 percent of our students who are applying to start with us in the fall state that this is their plan from the start,” Gilmore said.
While transfer students are a big part of the program’s current enrollment, future students will be better able to plot their education and career path, said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s viticulture and enology program.
“We’ve been getting students all along, but it was on individual cases and wasn’t always straightforward,” Henick-Kling said.
A large piece of the state’s wine industry is in the Mid-Columbia and nearby Yakima and Walla Walla valleys, and its leaders have supported WSU’s program.
The $23 million, 40,000-square-foot Wine Science Center will have research facilities, a library and classrooms aimed at training students for jobs in vineyards and wineries. Industry organizations, as well as businesses and individuals, have donated millions of dollars to the project.
“The Washington wine industry contributes $8 billion to the state’s economy, and a vital component for sustaining this success is the graduates who are trained to support our grape and wine industries,” Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and a WSU regent, said in a news release.