Since its founding in 1963, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton has been a pioneer for technical and academic education and making college affordable.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UACCM started as an adult vocational-technical school that trained in 13 skilled trades. Today there are 32 degrees and certificate programs, making up a vibrant community of students majoring in technical/professional/health fields, general education, and liberal arts. Students come from around the region to attend UACCM, thanks to the college’s geographic location in the center of the state and close proximity to cities such as Conway, Russellville, and Clinton. Forty-two percent of UACCM’s enrollment is comprised of Faulkner County residents. UACCM is the sixth largest two-year college in the state, and since its merger with the University of Arkansas System in 2001, enrollment has increased from 1,290 students to approximately 1900 students today.
In many ways, UACCM offers distinctive benefits for individuals who want to start a profession or retrain for a new career. In today’s economy, many career fields need specialized training for the workforce, and UACCM meets those demands. The college plays a unique role in the region’s realm of higher education.
Interest in the technical, professional, and health programs continues to grow as many business and industrial sectors are facing a shortage of workers due to an aging workforce and the demand for increased technological skills. UACCM offers one of only two surveying programs in the state. The early childhood development program meets the growing demands of childcare. And UACCM is a member of the Arkansas Rural Nursing Education Consortium that gives students a pathway to become registered nurses.
In 2018, the 53,843-square-foot Workforce Training Center opened, a state-of-the-art facility that offers training in high-wage, high-demand occupations. The building houses several technical programs—the fields of automotive service; air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration; industrial mechanics and maintenance; and welding. The building also features a 5,000-square-foot space for customized classes and state-of-the-art equipment ensuring students are training on the most relevant technology and methods.
Determining the direction of a program is assisted by forging partnerships. UACCM maintains an updated curriculum by inviting businesses and industry leaders in central Arkansas to sit on advisory committees. Over 130 advisory members representing more than 100 companies provide feedback on technical programs, with many making agreements to stock laboratories with equipment.
General education and liberal arts programs give students a pathway to a bachelor’s degree. “There are several advantages to starting a bachelor’s degree at a two-year college,” said Mary Clark, director of marketing and public relations. “First, the tuition is typically half that of the four-year university tuition rate, which allows students to complete their freshman and sophomore years with little to no debt. Second, class sizes at community colleges are usually much smaller, which allow students to get more one-on-one attention. Their instructors know their name, and the student may feel less intimidated about asking questions and engaging in class discussions.”
Faulkner County residents comprise 42 percent of UACCM’s enrollment, including the students pictured in this image. Front row left to right: Kenneth (KJ) Hendrix, general education major; Samantha Gross, automotive service technology major. Back row left to right: Cain Newton, welding major; Lakitta Grandy, business major; Alejandro (Alex) Abundis, surveying major; and Dee Vintila, registered nursing major.
Students planning on attending a four-year university can start at UACCM, stay close to home, and build a solid foundation of their degree. A student wanting to become a teacher has the opportunity to establish the fundamentals of the classroom. Another seeking to get a business degree can learn the core of collaboration, accounting skills, and economic principles. And the college provides students undecided about their future careers a place to figure it out. The office of Student Development offers career planning, student readiness, and counseling services to promote student success.
Due to the rise of student debt nationwide, more Americans are choosing community college as a home to obtain an associate degree before transferring to a university. At UACCM, the general education students are saving money while meeting their expectations of college life and developing new or existing interests.
UACCM’s position in the University of Arkansas System offers significant benefits. “From a marketing standpoint, the UA brand helps create awareness, strengthens our reputation, and garners respect for our high academic and training standards,” Clark said. “There is a trust factor in recognizing a strong brand and a credibility associated with our programs. It also opens the doors to scholarships and partnerships with other UA System schools.”
Clark says that the most recent example is when the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville recently introduced a new Arkansas Transfer Achievement Scholarship program. It reduces tuition rates for students who graduate from UACCM with an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree. Once they graduate with at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA and transfer to the University of Arkansas and pursue a bachelor’s degree, they continue to pay the basic tuition rate of UACCM. Ultimately, students can save thousands of dollars in tuition costs.
To simplify the transferring process, the college has 2+2 agreements with the state’s four-year universities. “A statewide articulation agreement between Arkansas public colleges and universities helps ensure transferability of general education courses,” Clark said.
“UACCM has well over 100 degree-specific 2 + 2 plans with the state universities, which map out a catered degree audit for the student planning to transfer into a specific bachelor’s degree. The 2+2 plans allow for an extremely smooth transfer to the student’s selected university,” Clark said. These agreements include a course-by-course list of the classes.
Maintaining close ties with four-year universities is important for the college. In 2018, UACCM and the University of Central Arkansas established the UCA Bear Partnership, which gives UACCM students who are participating in a UCA 2+2 degree plan the opportunity to participate in UCA’s campus activities, access to academic resources, and eligibility for a Bear Partners transfer scholarship.
While UACCM strives to prepare a highly-qualified workforce and close the skills gap through its degree and certificate programs, another priority is providing educational opportunities through the college’s Department of Workforce Development and Community Education. This includes a four-week commercial driver training program that runs continuously throughout the year and leadership academy classes, as well as self-improvement classes. And UACCM’s Adult Education program offers basic skills education and GED classes at its four center locations, including Conway.
For more information, go to uaccm.edu.