More Four Year Degrees On Horizon For The Delta

NEWPORT, AR--Two could soon equal four as Mid-South Community College, Arkansas Northeastern College, East Arkansas Community College, Phillips County Community College and ASU Newport will soon have a little bit extra for students.

Newport resident Levi Everett knows the trip to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro well.

"Anywhere from 40 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic," said Everett.

He attended ASU Jonesboro, but after a semester he felt lost in the shuffle and decided to further pursue his education in his hometown.

"I'm more comfortable because I have known these people my whole life, so it's like running into old friends," said Everett.

It's the mentality of the professors that lead him back to ASU Newport.

"I would even go to the length of saying they would approach me first, before I would approach them. That's how comfortable and caring these people are," said Everett.

He is pursuing a degree in biology. The problem is ASU Newport only offers two year degrees. However, that could soon change. Through the Arkansas Delta Training and Education Consortium four year degrees will now be offered at five, two year institutions in the Delta.

"If we can provide them an opportunity, without them having to relocate or move their families to complete their degrees, that is significant for us and the student," said ASU Newport Chancellor Dr. Larry Williams.

Williams says bachelor degrees in information technology, agriculture, transportation technology, business administration and education will offered to students.

ASU Newport student Rachael Miller is taking classes this summer and says the smaller schools have more advantages than just location.

"Definitely the teacher student ratio. We have a lot more personal time with our instructors to work through things and learn a lot more," said Miller.

In addition to opening up new doors academically for students, this new program also has the opportunity to help the communities of West Memphis, Blytheville, Forrest City and Newport by keeping some of their brightest minds in their home communities.

"If they can get that education here and stay in their hometowns and stay in the area, they are probably going to give back to the community that gave it to them," said Miller.

These schools are hopeful education will be the key to helping turn the economy around in some of the struggling parts of the Delta.

ASU Newport is hopeful those baccalaureate degrees will be start up for the spring 2008 semester.