November 2008, Volume 9, Number 11
Member Spotlight: Cossatot Community College
“The Can-Do College”
Cossatot Community College
De Queen, Arkansas
Dr. B. Alan Sugg, President of the University of Arkansas System, calls it “the can-do college.” Tucked away in the southwest corner of Arkansas, where the primary products are timber, chickens, and cattle, Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas (CCCUA) has earned that reputation over the past sixteen years by being an institution that is not afraid to take acceptable risks. Its enrollment in the spring of 1992 was a mere 91 students. Enrollment for the fall 2008 term set an all-time record of 1,396, up 15 percent over 2007. Growth like that doesn’t come from institutions that are bound to doing things by the book.
One example of not doing things by the book is the establishment of the Arkansas Rural Nursing Consortium (ARNEC). This group of six nonaligned schools was formed in 2005 with the leadership of CCCUA faculty and administrative personnel. Its purpose is to enable LPNs to become RNs without giving up their jobs and time with their families so they can attend nursing school in major cities like Little Rock. As far as can be determined, ARNEC is the only nursing education consortium of its kind in the United States. Instruction is delivered by interactive television, which enables the schools to share instructors. Study guides and tests are delivered over the internet. ARNEC’s first class in 2006 had 10 seats for each school. The program has been so successful that the Arkansas State Board of Nursing granted the consortium an increase to 20 seats per school beginning in 2008. Graduates of ARNEC are staying in the communities in which they live, which helps address the nation’s nursing shortage, a phenomenon felt even more acutely in rural areas.
Cossatot Community College also houses the only CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) office in Arkansas. The college’s home county, Sevier, has the highest percentage of Hispanics in Arkansas; CAMP has been instrumental in helping them, and other migrant workers across the state, gain the access and skills they need to complete their first year of college. The program has served more than one hundred students in the past five years, and a significant percentage of them have gone on to earn four-year degrees. The program is not limited to Hispanics; some of the participants are Hmong immigrants from Laos.
In addition to sharing resources with other nonaligned schools through ARNEC and providing statewide resources to migrant families through CAMP, CCCUA also provides significant support for the chambers of commerce in three of the four counties in its designated service area. Support comes principally in the form of paying one-half of the salaries of the executive vice presidents of the three chambers, but support also comes from making business faculty available to consult with area businesspeople on how to build their businesses. CCCUA also houses the Spotlight Business Accelerator for Entrepreneurs (SBAE), an incubator that helps people move their ideas from the garage to the marketplace.
The natural outgrowth of its commitment to aiding local chambers in their efforts to secure existing jobs and develop the manufacturing base necessary to sustain their communities is for the college to house the Texarkana Regional Economic Development Commission (TREDC). This body takes a necessarily broader view of economic development than a local or county chamber, recognizing that pitting one community or county against another is not an effective strategy for attracting and retaining industries that provide high-quality jobs. The TREDC office is located at the college’s Ashdown campus, just 18 miles north of Texarkana. It serves communities within roughly 75 miles of Texarkana, an area that encompasses portions of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Faced with rural depopulation, an eroding manufacturing base and a growing percentage of immigrants, CCCUA is a college that has succeeded in making lemonade out of lemons. Alone among two-year colleges in Arkansas, the college is supported by quarter-cent sales taxes in three of the four counties in its service area. This area has fewer than 60,000 residents. CCCUA’s commitment to deep involvement in the communities it serves, the recognition its faculty and staff have received for excellence, and a history of thinking outside the box have given CCCUA the reputation for being the can-do college.
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