Gadsden State Community College will discontinue its nearly three-decades-old aquaculture program next spring, the school announced Monday.
The program, introduced in 1991, taught students to care for aquatic life in natural and captive environments, working with fresh- and saltwater fish and plants in various tanks and ponds. Enrollment rates have slacked in the intervening years, now reaching numbers below the Alabama Commission on Higher Education’s viability standards.
In short, the program can’t support itself any longer.
“Unfortunately, we have struggled to meet program viability standards or even identify a market demand for this program in our region,” said Dr. Martha Lavender, GSCC president, in a press release. “Please know this program has been diligently reviewed. We have worked to find a solution to retain this unique program for about three years.”
The decision was based on analysis of demand, job availability, graduation and completion rates, overall costs and program quality. While the program, taught by Dr. Hugh Hammer, has a history of excellent quality, job availability and cost were overwhelming factors.
“Of the last 10 aquaculture graduates, only one graduate is employed locally,” Lavender said.
The program costs about $188,000 per year. Last year it generated about $32,856, according to Lavender, a total of 222 credit hours. There have been 27 students to complete the program in the last five years, averaging 5.4 per year. ACHE’s five-year average for viability is 7.5 graduates per year.
According to Jackie Edmondson, GSCC public relations director, Gadsden State was one of only 14 community colleges in the nation to offer the program.
“It’s just so specialized, I think,” she said. “It’s taught at universities, but it’s not something commonly seen at a community college.”