Northwest Arkansas colleges and universities, scholarship providers and academic advisers will join forces next week in Springdale to put on the region’s first Come Back to College Fair.
It’s the first time so many experts on college attendance representing so many aspects of the Northwest Arkansas educational community have come together for a day to assist people interested in returning to school.
The event will be from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the Jones Center, 922 E. Emma Ave. in Springdale.
Twenty fair attendees will receive $500 each in tuition reimbursement. AT&T agreed to provide the reimbursements, and a drawing will be one factor in determining the 20 recipients.
“We know people are accessing information on the Graduate NWA website to learn more about returning to college, but every person interested in returning to college has his or her own set of unique circumstances,” said Stacey Sturner, the Graduate NWA program manager for the Northwest Arkansas Council. “The Come Back to College Fair is one more way to engage people, allowing them to seek direct, face-to-face answers to their specific questions. We’ve brought six schools together, allowing people to start conversations with any of them or all of them.”
The importance of the fair and the overall Graduate NWA program, which was started last year, cannot be overstated. Among Northwest Arkansas residents who are at least 25 years old, about 28 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, peer regions have a higher percentage of residents with college degrees. Company owners who are relocating and expanding to new areas of the U.S. rely on a region’s educational attainment to help in deciding whether a region fits their needs.
“We know one of the challenges to returning to college is being able to pay for it, and so the gift from AT&T will make the difference for some people in western Arkansas,” said Mike Malone, President and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “It’s a valuable contribution to a larger overall effort of increasing how many people in our region have earned a college degree.”
The six partner schools in Graduate NWA are putting on the college fair in coordination with the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private nonprofit organization focused on improving the region’s infrastructure, educational attainment, community vitality and economic opportunity.
Graduate NWA’s partner schools, which helped establish the Graduate NWA program last year, are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale, the University of Arkansas for Medical Science-Northwest in Fayetteville, John Brown University in Siloam Springs, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.
In addition, counselors will be on hand to answer questions about financial aid and to evaluate college transcripts. Others helping with the fair include the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, Veterans Upward Bound, the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, the Academic Challenge Scholarship and the Fayetteville Adult and Community Education program.
“We’ll bring together many of the region’s key organizations so it can be a one-stop shop for the most important questions people may have about returning to school,” Sturner said. “We’re excited about seeing how many people we can assist, and how many obstacles we can help people overcome so they can complete their degree and inspire those within their own families to pursue degrees.”