BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The two colleges in Batesville are working together to try and solve the problem of a teacher shortage in rural Arkansas, including Independence County.
Memoranda of Understanding were signed by the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville and Lyon College earlier this week, establishing a clear path for students to transfer from the two-year college to the four-year college to earn a teaching degree.
"Really what it benefits is the area," said Dr. Brian Shonk, vice president of academics at UACCB. "We've been meeting for about three years now with school districts and those discussions started with regional workforce needs and how we can develop a pipeline to fill the jobs of the present and future."
Those local school districts need quality educators who want to stay in rural Independence County.
This agreement between the colleges allows students who earn an associate's degree in General Education or STEM at UACCB to then seamlessly transition into Lyon College's elementary or secondary education programs.
"When we think about transferability we want to have agreements in place so ultimately there's never a question," Lyon College President Dr. Joey King said. "It's not only good for the student, it's actually from the standpoint of process, far better for us to just know ahead of time what transfers, how it transfers, and then we can just lay out options on the table of what those students can do."
The way this will work is that students will complete all general education requirements at UACCB as well as electives that vary for the individual major at Lyon.
For example, students seeking to teach English would take Introduction to K-12 Educational Technology as an elective, those planning to teach history would take Arkansas History as their elective course.
The public schools in the area are supporters of this program and Dr. King and Dr. Shonk were confident they would provide opportunities for internships and student teaching because it will help fill their needs as well.
"The challenge is how do you find a student who is training in Little Rock or Fayetteville or Jonesboro who wants to come to a smaller community like Cedar Ridge School District or Midland School District and teach," Dr. Shonk said. "Whereas, if they have the opportunity to stay home go through their teaching practicum in those schools, they're more likely to join on as good teachers in those schools."
Many Independence County students already take classes at the community college either during high school or for the first two years of their higher education because of the lower tuition.
The two colleges have also had a long-standing agreement that transfers from UACCB to Lyon could get reduced tuition, according to Dr. Shonk.
"Like every private institution and most public institutions, we worry a lot about debt," Dr. King said. "Providing an option that allows them to have a lesser tuition in the first two years and also allows them to live at home I think is a good option."