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Growth continues

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ozarka expands to meet communities' needs

Once again, Ozarka College has good news to report -- some major growth is going on.

Expanding campuses and enrollment spikes are nothing new to the 2-year institution.

In fact, Ozarka surpassed its own record at the beginning of the 2007 fall semester with an enrollment of 1,217 students. "That is about 150 more students than last fall which was a record for the institution," said Ozarka's Vice President of Student Services Ron Helm.

This fall Ozarka not only set its own enrollment record; the institution set a precedent for all of the state's 2-year colleges.

Ozarka College experienced an enrollment growth of 13.7 percent for the fall 2007 semester, making it one of only four 2-year colleges in Arkansas to exceed a 10 percent enrollment increase, according to a recent press release from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The average increase among other Arkansas 2-year colleges was 4 percent.

Part of this enrollment also represents a 21 percent increase in full-time students taking 12 or more hours of classes, said Ozarka President Dusty R. Johnston. "... more of those students are enrolled for a full course load, pursuing degrees. We see this as a positive sign that we have made our course offerings more accessible ... a jump in students pursuing college full-time at Ozarka further clarifies Ozarka's availability to our community," he said.

The growth is not localized to any one of Ozarka's three campuses. The Melbourne campus had a 12 percent increase with an enrollment of 557. Enrollment climbed 32.5 percent at the Ash Flat campus with 303 students. And the Mountain View campus grew the most -- 215 students reflecting a 38 percent enrollment increase, according to Johnston.

Alongside its increasing numbers, today's Ozarka College has been shaped by a history of constant, positive changes.

In 1975, the college opened its doors as Ozarka Vocational-Technical School to provide vocational training to 43 area residents.

In 1991, action taken by the Arkansas State Legislature transformed Ozarka and other vocational technical school into technical colleges. With this change, Ozarka began to provide courses for college transfer credit under contracts with other state colleges and universities.

Two years later in August 1993, the technical college became a candidate for accreditation, and in 1996 the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools made Ozarka a fully accredited institution.

After changing the school's name to Ozarka College in 1999 to emphasize the full range of classes and degree programs offered, the school has since made transfer agreements with 4-year colleges around the state.

In recent years increasing enrollment numbers have led to the establishment of two satellite campuses at Mountain View and Ash Flat, and in March 2007 the college's LPN program was expanded to those campuses as well.

In keeping with Ozarka's steady growth, Johnston said the school recently adopted and updated mission statement. "Our college mission is to provide life-changing experiences through higher education. We plan to continue to do just that," Johnston said.

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