Governor Mark R. Warner today presided over the signing of an articulation agreement between Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). Under this comprehensive, statewide agreement community college graduates are guaranteed admission into Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The agreement, called "Pathway to Excellence - Guaranteed Admission Initiative," provides students with a seamless curriculum, instruction, and advising program that maximizes efficiency for degree completion and high-quality instruction.

The announcement and agreement signing were held in Richmond at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Downtown Campus, one of the 23 community colleges participating in the agreement.

"The agreement underscores the critical role that our community college system will play as an entry point for the thousands of new students entering higher education throughout this decade," Gov. Warner said. "At the beginning of my term, it was estimated that Virginia would have to accommodate an additional 60,000 students before the decade was out. The community colleges can and must be a part of the solution."

"Students will have greater access to and choice of agriculture and life sciences educational opportunities, advancing one of the most important economic sectors in the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. "Students will receive the education and training to prepare them for entry into a vast array of career options including biotechnology, nutrition, animal and human health, biosecurity, engineering, food production, environmental science, business, and the list goes on."

Steger also pointed out that the initiative will help Virginia Tech meet the needs of the agriculture and life science industries by providing them with potential employees who have the interest, the experience, and the preparation for careers in these industries.

"We are delighted to offer students an on-ramp to a bachelor's degree in the fields of agricultural and the life sciences — by beginning their education at community colleges," said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. "During the two years at a community college, families can enjoy the financial advantage of lower tuition while also having the assurance that community college courses and the community college associate's degree will transfer and satisfy Virginia Tech's requirements for the bachelor's degree. More families can afford a good education — and we've opened up many new career fields to community college graduates. We hope that this program will serve as a model that could be expanded to other areas of higher education and serve as a showcase nationally."

Students who choose to pursue admission into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences through this agreement must sign a Letter of Agreement and meet with an advisor to develop a plan of study that will best satisfy the requirements for a specific major in the college. The student will be required to meet regularly with an advisor to monitor progress to ensure compliance with his/her Letter of Agreement. In order to meet requirements for guaranteed transfer status, the student must complete an associate's degree with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), including a minimum core of specified courses.

The terms of this agreement go into effect immediately and the first students are expected to matriculate into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences beginning in fall 2005.

The initiative was developed as a cooperative project by Chancellor DuBois and Vice Chancellor Toni Cleveland of the Community College System, and President Steger and Provost Mark McNamee of Virginia Tech. Dean Sharron Quisenberry and Associate Dean and Director for Academic Programs Dean Sutphin of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Office Undergraduate Admissions are responsible for the implementation of the program components.

Consistently ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 10 institutions in agricultural research, Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world's leading agricultural scientists. The college's comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.