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Education Overview

Education programs support all NIFA National Emphasis Areas.  These programs promote teaching excellence, enhance academic quality, and develop tomorrow’s scientific and professional workforce. In cooperation with public institutions, private sector partners, and the Land-Grant University System, NIFA provides national leadership to address critical educational issues.

The teaching partnership is the most recent addition (1977) to the federal-state partnership comprising research, extension, and education. NIFA teaching initiatives support human capital development through programs that strengthen agricultural and natural resource sciences literacy in K-12 education, improve higher education curricula, modernize institutional academic capacity, and increase the diversity and quality of future graduates to enter the scientific and professional workforce.

In 1981, USDA established Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) to promote agricultural literacy in classrooms across the country. Today, AITC provides lesson plans, professional development opportunities, and teacher recognition programs for teachers, as well as maintains a national resource directory and other sources of public information on K-12 agricultural education issues.

The Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS) project gathers and compiles a broad range of higher education information, including numbers of students enrolled in, and graduating from, degree programs in the food and agricultural sciences (agriculture, forestry, renewable natural resources, human sciences/family and consumer sciences, veterinary medicine/veterinary science, and closely allied fields). FAEIS information is useful for planning, benchmarking, and coordinating efforts—both within higher education and throughout broad employment sectors in the food, agricultural, and natural resource sciences.

NIFA education programs also administer various funding opportunities where educators may submit competitive grant proposals to innovate and revitalize curricula, recruit and retain students, expand faculty competencies, incorporate new technologies to improve instruction delivery, and develop research and teaching capacity at minority-serving institutions.

Studies project that over the period 2005-2010, employment opportunities for U.S. college graduates with expertise in the food, agricultural, and natural resources systems are expected to remain strong. The expected average openings are over 52,000 per year, with some 49,300 qualified graduates available each year for these positions. Annually, approximately 32,300 new graduates will be available from the U.S. colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry, and veterinary medicine. Another 17,000 qualified graduates from allied higher education programs such as biological sciences, engineering, business, health sciences, communication, and applied technologies will be available. Details of the adequacy of our educational system to supply the quantity and quality of graduates to meet these workforce projections are found in the NIFA study: Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in the U.S. Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources System 2005-2010.

Through these and other education programs, NIFA assists the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities to develop essential strategies to meet future academic challenges. These include expanding student recruitment, preparing graduates in areas of national need, maintaining curricular relevance through innovative degree programs and technologies, developing academic infrastructure, and endowing graduates with problem-solving, communication, and hands-on collaborative learning skills and experiences they’ll need to lead scientific inquiry and meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.


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