Despite U.S. college enrollment declining in 2020 to the lowest level since 2007 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the enrollments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University remains strong.

New Texas A&M University students walk through the Gardens are on the Texas A&M campus.
Students take part in Hullabaloo U class tour at The Gardens on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

In October, a U.S. Census Bureau data report revealed enrollment in colleges dropped by 615,000 across the country. However, the preliminary fall enrollment for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences saw a record-breaking number of freshmen admits.

“Our college provides a robust offering of programs and degree plans with dedicated faculty who strive for student success,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “The coronavirus pandemic has certainly created unprecedented challenges for college students nationwide, but the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences continues on a steady path with an engaging, knowledgeable and safe educational experience.”

Testament to excellence in recruitment and new opportunities

“We are excited to welcome the college’s largest-ever class of 1,127 freshman students to campus this fall,” said Clare Gill, Ph.D., executive associate dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Our freshman enrollment is up 26%, which is a testament to the innovative approaches adopted by our recruiters to engage prospective students throughout the pandemic.”

A group of Texas A&M University students stand on a sidewalk in the Gardens with buildings in the background
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University saw its freshman enrollment jump 26% due to the largest-ever freshman class. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

A Brookings report revealed amid the COVID-19 recession, enrollment outcomes have been far different from previous economic recessions. Since February 2020, the study found young adults have spent less time on education, more time in the workforce and earned more favorable wages than the recessions of 2001 and 2008.

However, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is countering that trend as it actively seeks to identify new opportunities to engage with prospective students and expand their recruitment pool. For example, just this past year, the inaugural Cargill University THRIVE program cohort started with 50 students, with the majority being freshmen and 80% being women and/or minority students.

Similarly, the College formalized three articulation agreements with Texas-based community colleges, with more to come. To date, Blinn College, South Texas College and Angelina College have entered into an agreement to encourage and facilitate transfer students’ enrollment. These agreements not only embrace Texas A&M’s land-grant mission to serve all Texans and provide affordable pathways to higher education, but they will also increase the diversity of enrolled students at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and pipeline skilled graduates into the workforce.

Engaging, superior student experience

Every year, the College earns high rankings in a variety of categories. This year, one of the most notable rankings came from the Niche 2022 college rankings. Informed via a student-based approach by combining a thorough analysis of key statistics from the U.S. Department of Education with evaluations from current and past students, the College ranked No. 2 among Best Colleges for Agricultural Sciences in America.

In another notable ranking, it was ranked a top 30 program among the best global universities for agricultural sciences by U.S. News & World Report. All in all, after a year of ups and downs and a nationwide trend of decreasing college enrollment numbers, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences continues to thrive and seeks to offer prospective students a place where they can too.

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