UALR-Benton program takes big step forward, may add bachelor’s degree

By Wayne Bryan Published April 8, 2012 at 2:23 a.m.
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— Benton Mayor David Mattingly said he thinks students may be able to enroll this fall in an exclusive baccalaureate program offered at the Benton campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The proposal for the first four-year degree program to be offered in Benton was officially presented to the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees during its meeting March 30.

Mattingly said the proposal did not require approval by the board. However, the trustees could have objected to the program and ended it.

The e-Commerce degree proposed to the board would not require new classes or new faculty but would be made up of programs already established by the university, according to Sandra Robertson, interim provost and vice chancellor of UALR, who outlined the new program earlier.

“The degree will include classes from business, engineering and IT (Information Technology), and a core of liberal arts,” she said.

Business classes would provide information on buying and selling on the Internet, along with traditional classes in business administration and retail sales. Courses on cyber crimes are proposed by the university’s criminal justice department, and writing for the World Wide Web would be taught by the rhetoric and writing department. Web design skills would be provided by the IT and graphic-design programs, Robertson said.

The proposal was brought to the board by UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson.

“This degree is exciting and something unique and would be the first of its kind in the state. I think there is student interest in the program, as well as by employers,” Anderson said at the announcement of the proposal in Benton.

“The majority of the board seemed to support the program,” Mattingly said. “They knew we were not asking for funding from their bucket of money, at a time when there is nothing extra in that bucket.”

The Benton mayor said the city has understood, since the beginning of their talks with the university about the program, that funding for classes would either come from tuition fees or would be subsidized by the city.

Officials from Benton and UALR have worked on the program for more than a year. Their discussion included choosing a degree that would be unique for the Benton campus and would fit with the city’s focus on economic development.

“The opportunities for higher education and continued economic development go hand in hand,” Mattingly said.

The mayor said one of the things that prompted him to begin pursuing higher-education opportunities for the school was personal stories from commuter students living in Benton and going to school in Little Rock. The students said they were struggling with day care, gasoline and other expenses they experienced while working on their college degrees.

The next step in the approval process for the program is notification to the Higher Education Coordinating Board of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education on April 27. Mattingly said he understands that the notification can be done with a letter from Anderson so that no one from the city or the university will have to be at the formal meeting in Bentonville.

“Maybe in 30 to 60 days, we can be marketing the program with billboards and see if we can attract some students to be enrolled in the four-year program in the fall,” Mattingly said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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