National Park College and the University of Arkansas at Monticello announced a new Bachelor of Arts program through the partnership between schools, allowing NPC to offer a bachelor's degree in K-6 elementary education.
The schools partnered previously to introduce a bachelor's degree program in business administration.
"One of the things that NPC does very well is listen to the voice of our students," NPC President John Hogan said. "So, when we asked this question several years ago, the top two disciplines our students requested were business and education. So this is an important day in meeting that expectation that our students have for us."
While the students will be able to obtain the degree through UAM from NPC's campus, they will still be charged in-state tuition and fees through UAM at $8,029 per semester. However, UAM will also offer a transfer scholarship award of $3,000 per semester to students in the program with a minimum GPA of 2.5, according to UAM's website.
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"If it's not the most affordable bachelor's degree in Arkansas, it's darn close," Hogan said. "So, that increases accessibility and hopefully it'll reach a number of students in the pipeline. So, we look at this as a workforce investment. We look at it as a need locally, we look at it as an avenue for our students to be involved in higher-paying careers and we keep those graduates and their families here in our community. This makes a generational impact in that sense.
"Having more teachers in the county who come from the county, who are well-equipped to educate a new generation of Garland County residents and Arkansans, which will also give us a leg up in terms of economic and workforce development."
The economic impact of this new degree being offered through NPC will not only affect future students of NPC, but the community as a whole when it comes to education.
"On behalf of the K-12 public school districts and leaders in Garland County, I want to thank Dr. Hogan and Dr. Doss as well as their teams at National Park College and UAM for their work," said Shawn Higginbotham, Lake Hamilton School District superintendent.
"In achieving this partnership, I would encourage us to view this new degree program not as increased competition, but as increased capacity for the teacher fight line. The teacher workforce in today's economy is no different than the private and other public employers. We don't have enough qualified, licensed applicants to fill our positions and more importantly to get better results and outcomes," he said.
UAM Chancellor Peggy Doss initially received her bachelor's degree in teacher education from UAM, starting her career as a teacher for a few years before transitioning to higher education, she said.
"So, with knowing that pathway and knowing the importance of it and knowing the importance of teachers in our community, the importance of teachers in our state, and how they are the difference makers, I can't tell you how exciting it is to be here today and to join with Dr. Hogan and his team to announce this partnership," Doss said.
Although Doss said UAM was "anxious to begin to admit students into our new degree option," she noted it is currently pending approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education later in July.
Once the program is approved, which Doss said they were "confident that will be done," the program will be ready to admit students to begin their education at NPC and then continue to transition into coursework through UAM for a four-year degree.
"The partnership between National Park College and the University of Arkansas Monticello is a model that is creating new solutions to solve problems, and that's what higher education is supposed to be, finding solutions to problems," Doss said. "And that's what we, together with this partnership, are doing."