"As students began arriving, there were tears in my eyes," said Mayor Jean Pace. "This was something I've wanted to see for such a long time.
Pace had lobbied the school to expand from GED and adult education classes to full credit college courses.
She and others are even more excited now that Ozarka is seeking to buy a building so that day, as well as evening classes, can be held, perhaps as early as the spring semester.
"Both political and community support in Mammoth Spring for a site to offer day and evening classes has been really overwhelming," Ozarka President, Dr. Richard Dawe told a special Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 24.
Dawe called the meeting to seek board approval to purchase a building, a former daycare center at Fifth and Archer Streets, to start a Mammoth Spring campus.
"The building in question is a foreclosed property. FNBC holds the title. It's about five years old, about 1,380 square feet. Good condition. Five classrooms, multiple bathrooms, office space. It would be an outstanding initial site."
The board did not take much convincing. It quickly gave approval to make an offer on the building and a vacant lot across the street, which can be developed into a parking lot.
The daycare building is listed for $115,000 and the vacant lot at $13,900.
The board asked Dawe to negotiate the lowest purchase prices possible.
Dawe, a graduate of Thayer High School, admitted the Mammoth Spring expansion means a lot to him.
"I'm from the region but I've tried to make myself as impartial as possible," said Dawe.
He credits strong community response to night classes for persuading Ozarka to seek a permanent location for classes so quickly.
"I certainly knew the need was there and, if we could have a good showing the first time out of the box with evening classes, which we've done. We've exceeded expectations," said Dawe.
This summer, Ozarka began seeking students for fall evening classes at Mammoth Spring High School.
"I knew, if we could make it easy, set up a place where we could answer questions and walk people through the registration process, we would have a good response." said Mayor Pace.
The Mayor offered space at City Hall for Ozarka representatives to meet with prospective students. After Student Services representatives began contacting local business leaders and placing signs in store windows, people started coming in to learn more about college classes as Pace predicted.
"$75 a semester hour for a two year degree or certificate. No one can compete with our tuition rate in the area," said Dawe, "And our reputation for service to students, that's what really appeals, I think, to them."
According to Dawe, some of his staff worried that classes at Mammoth Spring would draw students away from the Ash Flat campus. But, half the 50 Mammoth Spring night students are also taking day classes at Ash Flat, so they can carry a full semester load.
In addition, half of the Mammoth Spring students are from nearby Oregon County, Mo., and Dawe expects the number of Oregon County students to grow, since they are eligible for Arkansas in-state tuition rates.
"I believe we will go from 50 students this semester to 125 to 150 next semester and, then, we'll go upwards toward where Ash Flat and Mountain View (campuses) are, in a couple of years.
Mayor Pace is aware the Department of Higher Education still must approve Ozarka's plan for day classes at Mammoth Spring. But she cannot imagine the state standing in the way of higher education in her city.
"We have gotten some new students this first week and, now, we have more than 50 enrolled," said Pace. "Some of our students have told me they would not be in college if classes were not finally available here."