Henderson, NPC, COTO form alliance

— From left: Dr. Glen Jones, Dr. Steve Rook, Dr. John Hogan, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Dr. Maria Markham

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the Southern Arkansas Regional Alliance (SARA) Wednesday between Henderson State University, National Park College (NPC), College of the Ouachitas (COTO).

The institutions collaborated to form the alliance in response to the governor’s Closing the Gap 2020 master plan for higher education. The goal of the regional alliance is to create an innovative and collaborative delivery model for higher education and workforce development initiatives in Arkansas that will prioritize student success, degree attainment and workforce development ahead of tradition and turf. The agreement also includes strategies for creating institutional efficiencies through shared resources.

“Our partnership will create greater opportunities for the students in our region,” said Dr. Glen Jones, Henderson State president. “We will establish more seamless degree options and increase student degree attainment throughout south Arkansas as we simplify transfer pathways between our institutions.

“We look forward to serving as a catalyst for economic development in south Arkansas as we work with leaders and communities to promote stronger cooperation, industry engagement and branding throughout our region.”

Dr. Maria Markham, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE), noted a number of initiatives have been announced in response to the governor’s call. The Higher Education Productivity Funding Model is a productivity-based approach that emphasizes student success, as well as access.

She explained that Wednesday’s announcement, which includes two of the state’s community colleges and one four-year university, will allow these institutions to prioritize student success, degree attainment and workforce development in Arkansas.

Dr. Steve Rook, COTO president said, “Alliances of this type are fairly common within community colleges but not necessarily with a mixture of both two-year and four-year institutions. The alliance allows the three schools to set up a framework that will promote student success and workforce development in our region.

“While the two-year schools focus on meeting our primary mission within our service areas, the additional help from Henderson State will be instrumental to the alliance’s success. The MOU will be the center of the relationship for the three of us as we work together in higher education and economic development promoting the student success in our area.”

NPC President Dr. John Hogan said, “Our 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. NPC has prioritized expansion of transfer agreements for Garland County students.

“We believe this alliance will help strengthen our efforts in that area.” He noted, “This alliance is not a merger and it is not exclusive to NPC, COTO and Henderson State. We look forward to welcoming other institutions who may contribute to the group’s mission.”

State Sen. Bruce Maloch said, “Alliances between our state-funded universities and colleges are an excellent way for these valuable members of our communities to utilize resources most efficiently. In addition, they will work to help students reach their career goals and our communities to remain vibrant.”