3 area schools ally to benefit students

By Sam Pierce Published January 8, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Sam Pierce

Henderson State University President Glen Jones, center, speaks during a press conference Wednesday at the state Capitol in Little Rock to announce the formation of the Southern Arkansas Regional Alliance. Standing behind Jones are Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Maria Markham, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Also shown is National Park College President John Hogan, left.

— Three Arkansas colleges announced Wednesday a regional alliance that will benefit area students and their progress toward degree completion.

At a press conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Higher Education Director Maria Markham debuted the Southern Arkansas

Regional Alliance among National Park College in Hot Springs, College of the Ouachitas in Malvern and Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

The goal of the regional alliance is to create a collaborative model for higher-education and workforce-development initiatives in the state that will “prioritize student success, degree attainment and workforce development,” according to a press release from National Park College.

“What I like about this is that it is not mandated by big government,” Hutchinson said, “but it is an alliance created by three institutions that came together on a volunteer basis to do more things and better things for our students in a more efficient way by creating this.”

Hutchinson said the creation of the alliance is representative of what he likes to see in higher education, “which is improved efficiency, student focus and the delivery of services to students in the most efficient way.”

The regional alliance will provide students in Clark, Garland and Hot Spring counties with greater educational opportunities by making more degrees available locally at a potentially lower cost. The alliance will also increase the availability of degree opportunities and remove enrollment barriers for local residents, as well as decrease the amount of time it takes for students to earn degrees.

“Our three institutions agreed to collaborate and leverage financial, academic and community resources to increase availability of workforce training, certificates, and associate, bachelor’s and even graduate degrees …,” Henderson State University President Glen Jones said. “We came together and decided what would be best for our students and communities.

“We believed … we could accomplish more together than individually.”

The alliance will hold regular meetings consisting of the presidents and others as needed. The alliance will also offer “open source” degrees that will enable multiple entry and exit points among the collaborating campuses. The process will be designed to guarantee pathways to certificates and degrees across all of the campuses.

“We will establish more seamless degree options and increase student degree attainment throughout south

Arkansas as we simplify transfer pathways between our institutions,” Jones said.

NPC President John Hogan said the main goal is to increase degree completions for “our service areas by compressing time to degree and eliminating wasted coursework, which will result in keeping quality graduates in the area.

“This alliance is not a merger and is not exclusive to our three schools. We look forward to welcoming other institutions who may contribute to the group’s mission.”

Hogan said NPC is undergoing a transformation to focus on “this idea of completion.”

“Transfer is a big issue in terms of measuring our success and bringing earner power to, or keeping earner power in, Garland County so those graduates earn more money and have better jobs,” Hogan said.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Sam Pierce can be reached at spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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