Colleges See Need For Northwest Arkansas Outposts

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jun. 3, 2013 12:00 am  

Board of Trustees Chairman Ric Clifford announces plans for a Washington County expansion of Northwest Arkansas Community College. The Bentonville school is eyeing at least half of 39 acres in Springdale near Arvest Ballpark as the location. (Photo by Rob Smith)

When Northwest Arkansas Community College leaders outlined a five-year plan in 2011, expanding beyond Bentonville was among their top priorities.

Approximately 40 percent of the school’s more than 8,000 students are from Springdale, Fayetteville and other towns in Washington County. Operating out of leased space at multiple locations away from the main campus would one day be unfeasible for the two-year college.

Demand was there. All NWACC needed was a permanent location.

That location is closer to becoming a reality, following a recent announcement of plans to build a permanent Washington County campus on pastureland near Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Details of the sale are still being worked out between Philip Taldo, owner of the 39 acres, and the college’s foundation. There are still focus groups to be scheduled to determine specifics of what NWACC will offer, but the school’s leaders have no doubt that the region’s growing population can support their expansion plans.

“This growth has been steady for the last several years,” said NWACC President Becky Paneitz, who is retiring June 30. “There is opportunity here.”

(Get the Lists: Click here to see the lists of the largest four-year colleges, largest two-year colleges and largest MBA programs in Arkansas.)

NWACC isn’t alone in identifying that opportunity.

As the region has grown — an average of 30 new residents a day since 1990, according to statistics provided by the Northwest Arkansas Council — so too have the post-secondary offerings in Benton and Washington counties. While the University of Arkansas enrollment topping 24,500 has been well publicized, other schools in the region are growing as well.

John Brown University in Siloam Springs is extending its footprint with a satellite office in Rogers centered on degree completion. Others — like Harding University in Searcy, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and Drury College of Springfield, Mo. — have established or are working to establish a presence in the area.

Local leaders like those at the Northwest Arkansas Council are hopeful the expanding educational opportunities will lead to more economic growth.

Shortage of Degree-Holders

Businesses looking at relocating or expanding into northwest Arkansas are often impressed by what they see.

 

 

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