Fort Hays State University visited Pratt Community College Thursday to provide information about a possible on-line ag business degree as they sought to get enough interested students to start the program.

College students with an interest in agriculture business may soon be able to complete a four-year bachelors degree in that area at Pratt Community College without ever leaving the campus.

Fort Hays State University is exploring the interest in a four-year ag business degree that students can take through distance learning and not have to go to the FHSU campus.

Representatives from FHSU visited the PCC campus Thursday night to present information and answer questions about the potential program.

The university is conducting listening tours to determine if there is enough interest to add an ag business degree at FHSU.

The degree would require students to complete 120 hours of prerequisites and specific ag related courses. At least 60 of those hours have to be from a four-year institution, 30 hours must be taken at FHSU and 45 hours have to be upper level courses from the 300 level and higher, said John Greathouse, FHSU Department of Agriculture department chair who made the presentation at PCC.

Among the required classes in the degree is Technology in Agriculture. Currently under consideration for this course is an unmanned aerial vehicle that would allow a ground operator to pilot a UAV and use it for a variety of farm purposes including crop evaluation and livestock location and identification, Greathouse said.

Through this degree, students will develop an understanding of ag business, animal science and agronomy.

Scholarship money is available for some courses in the degree through AccessUs. The $400 per three-hour class scholarship would be available for FHSU classes taught through IPTV and would total $4,000 for the approximately 10 IPTV courses, Greathouse said.

The program would be available for the western part of the state reaching from Wichita to the Colorado boarder.

“We have access to legislative funding to bring four year programs to students who are place bound in western Kansas,” Greathouse said.

Students in the degree program will be able to take their freshmen course work at the community college level then continue the rest of the program work through long distance learning while remaining at a local community college. Students will even be able to take the program at home.

The Kansas Board of Regents requires a certain number of face-to-face contact hours in a degree program so students would have a chance to work directly with FHSU Staff for a time.

If the new degree is a go, FHSU will work with community colleges to assure that students are taking the correct classes to complete the degree.

Area farmer Dean Fitzsimmons listened to the presentation and said if it had been available when he was in college, he wouldn’t have thought twice about taking an ag business degree. He said he could see how it would relate to young farmers.

Fitzsimmons son James said he had decided to work on his fathers farm and was definitely interested in the degree program.

Former PCC student Remington Smith said he wanted to improve himself and the flexibility of this degree would allow him to take the classes while continuing to work.

The degree program needs from 20 to 30 students to become a reality. The university has more presentations to make on the ag business degree and they are continuing to review their advertising strategy to let students know the degree is available.

Interest in the degree is growing and Greathouse is very optimistic that enough students will want the degree so that it will start this fall.

Anyone interested in the program should contact the FHSU Department of Agriculture and speak with Greathouse or other staff for more information. The contact number is 785-628-4196.