DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State University could surpass the University of Iowa in enrollment this fall with strong engineering and agriculture programs driving the growth, The Des Moines Register reported Thursday.
Iowa State has trailed Iowa since 1979. ISU officials expect their enrollment to reach 31,000, topping Iowa's expected total of about 30,800, the same as last fall, the newspaper reported (http://dmreg.co/SaDEqP ).
The final numbers won't be out until September, but the trend is clear, ISU President Steven Leath said.
"It makes us essentially, for practical purposes, the same size as Iowa," Leath said. "We thought the milestone was going to be 30,000. The fact that we can go close to 31,000, that's surprising and a pretty big deal for us."
Many of this spring's graduates enrolled at ISU in Ames in fall 2008 when the national economy was teetering. Four years later, the economy remains a top concern, even as the agricultural industry booms.
Iowa State is one of the nation's first land-grant universities, which were established 150 years ago to develop agriculture research and technology.
The University of Iowa, a national research university in Iowa City, has 11 colleges. The largest is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It also has a medical school, business college and law school. It's meeting its enrollment growth targets and does not lack applicants, officials said.
In 2010, Iowa achieved its five-year freshman enrollment goal in a single year, and has limited incoming classes since then, said Michael Barron, executive director of admissions.
"The reality is there's always an ebb and flow (in enrollment). Iowa State may be poised to grow based on some of their strengths," Barron said. "There's definitely been a resurgence in agriculture in a variety of areas. That's something that's exclusive to Iowa State."
ISU, which enrolled a record 29,887 students last fall, expects to add another 1,000 or so students when classes begin in August.
The engineering college, which will enroll about 7,200 students this fall, will be up 150 students from last year.
The agriculture college has seen enrollment increase 46 percent the past six years. This fall, the college expects to surpass 3,623 students, an enrollment record set 35 years ago in fall 1977.
Iowa State came within 1,000 students of the University of Iowa a decade ago. By 2008, the gap had widened to nearly 4,000.
Anthony Lackore, 24, of Forest City graduated from ISU in 2010. He works as a production agronomist raising soybean seeds for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont company. He had the job lined up by the fall of his senior year.
The agriculture college's 98 percent job placement rate is the highest at ISU, compared to about 94 percent for engineering.
"It was just amazing to hear all the areas of the ag industry that the individuals were going into, especially hearing, on the flip side, about the other industries that were struggling at the time," Lackore said.
Pioneer Hi-Bred this year was the top employer of College of Agriculture graduates for the second consecutive year, said Cindy Heser, the company's senior human resources manager.
Demand for skilled workers in the agriculture industry shows no signs of letting up, in part because some predict agriculture productivity will have to increase 70 percent by 2050 to feed the world's growing population, Heser said.
"We are definitely in growth mode, and agriculture is a bright spot in the economy," she said.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com