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Foreign Student Series #21: Agriculture Studies

I’m Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Education Report.

The United States has more than two thousand four hundred colleges and universities. About one hundred of them began as public agricultural colleges, and continue to teach agriculture. These are called land grant schools. And they are the subject this week in our Foreign Student Series.

Federal land grants supported the building of most of the major state universities in America. The idea of the land grant college goes back more than a century to a law called the Morrill Act. A congressman from Vermont named Justin Smith Morrill wrote legislation to create at least one such college in each state.

The name land grant came from the kind of aid provided by the federal government. The government gave each Northern state thousands of hectares of land. The states were to sell the land and use the money to establish colleges. These colleges would teach agriculture and engineering, as well as military science.

Congress passed the law in eighteen sixty-two. This was during the Civil War. Southern states had rebelled and left the Union.

The federal government wanted Americans to learn better ways to farm. Another law created a center for experiments at each land grant college to help farmers solve problems. This helped agricultural colleges develop new scientific ideas.

The Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was established in eighteen fifty-five, seven years before the Morrill Act. It later became the first college to officially agree to receive support under the act. And it grew into what is now Michigan State University.

Today the university in East Lansing has more than forty thousand students. These include about three thousand foreign students from more than one hundred countries.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State says it had about three hundred foreign students last year. Most were graduate students who were studying agricultural economics, packaging, and crop and soil sciences.

This brings us to the end of the twentieth week of our Foreign Student Series. Our series is for students in other countries who would like to attend a college or university in the United States. All the programs are on the Internet at voaspecialenglish dot com.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.