A couple of weeks ago Northwest Arkansas Community College celebrated their 20th anniversary.
When the college opened in 1990, 1200 students enrolled in classes that were held in churches, elementary schools, and anywhere else space was available in Bentonville and Rogers. Back then some folks referred to it as the "School Without Walls." It definitely fulfilled a need for post-secondary education in NW Arkansas to supplement that of the U of A in Fayetteville.
Now a mere 20 years later, 8400 college-credit students are enrolled. The college (pronounced "EN-WAC" for its abbreviation of the name, NWACC) now has its own campus in Bentonville with a library, science laboratories, art studios, an auditorium, computer lab, and other necessities of a college campus. Many classes are held there, but they are also offered at other locations throughout Benton and Washington counties. There are also distance-learning opportunities.
Two-year degrees are offered in many fields of study. The nursing classes are so popular that potential students have to be turned away each year. Other offerings include business, graphic arts, homeland security, environmental studies, culinary arts, banking, criminal justice, agriculture and more.
Students can transfer their credits to a 4-year college or university towards Bachelors degrees.
The economic benefits to NW Arkansas are far reaching. Educated and skilled work forces greatly enhance quality of life, which in turn encourages businesses to locate here. Better salaries mean a larger tax base. Even the salaries the college pays directly to employees has a huge impact on the community as the money trickles down through local businesses.
As a former teacher at the college, I feel that the education obtained there is a great value-modest fees for a highly trained faculty. And smaller class sizes afford students more personal attention. I'm looking forward to the next 20 years for NWACC.
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