SPSCC will discontinue its horticulture program

South Puget Sound Community College is phasing out its horticulture program, according to college spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth.

“We’ve had to move it into retirement,” she said.

College officials studied five years of information on the program including job salaries, availability and retention, she said. Due to changes in the industry, many of the jobs that the program was designed to prepare students for are now being filled by high school graduates, she said.

“Based on the review, they recommended that the program be retired,” Purce Braseth said. “...Basically, it was one of those data driven decisions that you have to make. It was a tough decision, and it’s a really sad decision.”

College officials recently announced that the program will no longer accept new students. A “teach out’ schedule is in the works so that current students can continue working on their degrees.

SPSCC has offered a horticulture program for 43 years. Purce Braseth said the college isn’t replacing it with another program, and that once the program is gone, its faculty members will be gone as well.

“It’s actually kind of the process, kind of the life of a technical program,” she said. “Things change. Some things go away. Sometimes they’re absorbed by other things. ...Some things run their course.”

Horticulture student Shana Burk said she’s upset about the changes.

“I was really shocked,” said Burk, 42, of Rainier. “”Most of the students are just upset that we weren’t told (earlier in the school year). We were told two or three weeks ago.”

She said SPSCC is one of the only colleges in the region to offer a two-year horticulture program, and there are students in her classes who drive from as far away as Puyallup and Portland to be part of it.

Burk said that college officials told students that one of the reasons they are closing the program is because graduates aren’t making high enough wages with their degrees.

“Are they going to close the child care center? Because child care providers don’t get paid well,” Burk said. “None of us went into this going, ‘We’re going to be millionaires.’ It’s a passion you have to have.”

She said a group of horticulture students is hoping to get SPSCC’s board of trustees to reverse the administration’s decision so that the program can stay open.