Equine science degree no longer an option at Parkland

Sarah Powers

Photo courtesy of Parkland Archives From left to right, Parkland Equine Management students Monika Tross, Laetitia Johnson, Andy Metcalf, and Mike Potter proudly display their awards from a youth horse judging event in 1983.

Photo courtesy of Parkland Archives
From left to right, Parkland Equine Management students Monika Tross, Laetitia Johnson, Andy Metcalf, and Mike Potter proudly display their awards from a youth horse judging event in 1983.

Photo courtesy of Parkland Archives Parkland students gather around a horse during one of Parkland’s first Equine Management classes in 1975.

Photo courtesy of Parkland Archives
Parkland students gather around a horse during one of Parkland’s first Equine Management classes in 1975.

Staff Writer

It’s time to say farewell to the Parkland Equine Management A.A.S. degree, which will no longer accept students this coming spring semester.

While the equine management degree has always been one of Parkland’s smaller programs, drastic decline in student enrollment led to a decline in program funding, which ultimately brought department leaders to this difficult decision.

Students currently enrolled in the program will finish out their classes and receive the last Equine Management A.A.S. degrees Parkland will ever offer.

“The equine program has always been small in terms of enrollment for years, but it wasn’t always that way,” said Bruce Henrikson, chair of the business and agri-sciences department, who started at Parkland the same year as the program.

As the program grew from its start in 1975, staff believed the need for an on-campus equine facility was essential for continued success.

Parkland is one of two colleges in Illinois that offered a two-year equine associates degree program without an equine facility, and it was felt that the college could not provide students with the robust educational experience originally intended.

Several plans were laid to build a state-of-the-art equine facility on campus, to be called the Illinois Equestrian Center, that would serve as training grounds for animal science classes, as well as the Parkland and University of Illinois IHSA equestrian teams.

As enrollment numbers began to fall, building the Illinois Equestrian Center also became hope to draw students in from across the state. However, without being able to meet fundraising goals, the facility was never built.

Even with plans for improving the equine education at Parkland, there still is the issue that there aren’t many opportunities for graduates.

“There’s not a lot of horse jobs around here, but occasionally someone is hired to give lessons, or start on their own lesson program, but for that you also need a barn. Not a lot of people have the assets to make that a reality,” Henrikson said.

According to the Horseman’s Council of Illinois, the Illinois horse industry produces a GDP over $3.5 billion and provides almost 16,000 full-time jobs. However, an equine science associates degree is one of the few that has the lowest graduate employment rates.

This pushes a lot of students to the realization that more schooling is necessary to have a secure position in the equine industry, or even that a different career path may be the best decision.

“Being in the program is teaching me a lot about the business practices of owning a horse barn, but I’m also getting a degree in welding for backup,” said Lena Daugherty, one of the last students going through the degree program. Daugherty would like to own her own stable one day.

When the last of the students finish their degrees, there will no longer be any equine classes for credit, but several for non-credit community education classes.

Other than a decline in interest for equine sciences, the other programs in business and agri-science are growing. Leading the race is Precision Agriculture, which teaches students to use a top-line GPS technology to track soil quality in farm fields.