When administrators at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope-Texarkana spoke to employers, current students, and prospective students, they found that lack of time is actually a bigger handicap for students than financial concerns.
As such, the college is revising its Spring 2023 schedule to allow some students to spend less time on campus.
The college offers more technical and industrial classes one, two or three days a week than the traditional five days a week, said Casey Curtis, the college’s communications coordinator. “Many of these students have jobs they just can’t quit and come to school five days a week.”
The college is also integrating more online courses into technical and industrial classes, Curtis said. “It’s difficult to do a lot online because so much of it is practical [learning]but there are some online simulations for lab work.”
Other courses are better suited to online learning, and students are invited to take advantage of this opportunity, he said. For example, students can earn their Associate of Arts in General Education 100% online or in person if they prefer.
“We are committed to expanding our programs and services to better support students and break down their barriers to higher education,” said Chancellor Christine Holt. “[We strive to] To provide students of all ages with valuable degrees and certificates, and to help our business and industry partners provide training to their employees to build a better workforce.”
This spring’s revised schedule “allows students to come to college less often so they can do more work while attending school,” Jennifer Teresa, dean of engineering and industrial programs, said in a college news release. “There are many great, high-paying jobs that our programs equip students to achieve, [and] We want to help them in any way we can to get the qualifications for these jobs.”
NEW LABOR CENTER
A new work center in Texarkana, due for completion next month, will begin accepting students in the spring semester of 2023 and allow the college to better serve student needs, Curtis said. The welding program will have a prominent place in the center, including three new courses leading to a welding qualification.
“Manufacturing, of which welding is a key component, is a major industry in Arkansas,” with nearly 12% of the state’s workforce employed in manufacturing, “and 6,500 new manufacturing jobs were added in Arkansas last year created,” says Teresa. “Welding is also a well-paying profession, with an average annual wage of $22.60 an hour.”
The staff center will also house a secondary career center and the Arkansas High School Collegiate Academy.
“Part of our mission is to help our partners in secondary education prepare our students for life after high school, [and] the Secondary Career Center is one of the great programs we offer [to] Help students get a head start in college, or give them a qualification to work in a quality career field right out of high school,” said Holt. “We also offer the Arkansas High Collegiate Academy, which gives students an opportunity to earn their associate of arts degree while they were still in high school.”
The staff center will be named after Farmers Bank & Trust, which is providing $100,000 (in annual donations of $10,000) for 10 years, a “very significant gift,” Holt said earlier this fall. Farmers Bank & Trust sees the donation “as the start of a partnership with us”.
Health and nursing continues to be among the most popular offerings at the college, and starting in the spring semester, the college will be offering fast-tracking for certified nursing assistants and bloodletting courses to help students finish their education quickly and enter the workforce, Curtis said. The fast track “essentially halves the semester” so, for example, the fast track for CNA runs from January 9th to March 3rd.
“Jobs in both of these areas are in demand,” Karen Davis, dean of health professions, said in a UAHT press release. “These fast-track options not only allow students to finish quickly, but also” to earn certificates in multiple areas in one semester.
About 30% of the college’s students are in engineering, industrial, and healthcare programs, Curtis said. UAHT has nearly 1,200 enrolled students this semester.
The college “is dedicated to higher education and professional education in the Texarkana area and our region as a whole,” Holt said. “We want to demonstrate our commitment to Texarkana and the region by expanding our footprint to improve and expand the programs and services we offer to our constituents in the Texarkana area.”
The college is also responding to the job market with new courses, Curtis said. For example, the cybersecurity program is new this semester, “this is a growing field with high starting salaries and benefits”.
The college is the only higher education institution in the state to offer a solar technology program, which debuted this spring, he said. “Solar energy is growing in Arkansas, so there’s a demand there.”
Registration for the spring semester is ongoing.
The college remains affordable, particularly with numerous financial aid opportunities, institutional scholarships and work-study programs, as well as more than 120 privately funded scholarships and a textbook lending program that allows students to borrow their textbooks for as little as $20 per credit hour, Curtis said. There’s also the Arkansas Future Grant, known as ArFuture, which allows students to qualify to earn more than 25 degrees and certificates for free in college.
The scholarship covers tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying certificates and associate degree programs for eligible students, according to the college. These include Coding, Computer and Information Sciences, Diesel Engineering, Basic EMT, Industrial Electricity, Maintenance, Nursing), Paramedic, Power Engineering, Solar Engineering, Teaching and Welding.
“It’s free money and a good deal,” Curtis said. The state provides students in colleges with ArFuture to meet labor needs in the above areas where there is a labor shortage and “these are high-paying jobs”.
The ArFuture Scholarship is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and the application deadline for the spring semester is January 10th. For information and admission requirements, see https://www.uaht.edu/arfuture/.
By making learning more flexible and affordable, the college hopes to offer individuals a path to enhance their current work or begin a new career, Curtis said.