Graduate NWA Puts on Come Back to College Fair on Tuesday

Graduate NWA is doubling how much each student can receive in scholarship funding at its Come Back to College Fair next week in Springdale.

The unique event, set for 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Jones Center, provides an excellent venue for people interested in returning to college to complete a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or technical certification at one of six partner colleges and universities.

“We’ve decided to provide 10 students with up to $1,000 apiece to help them return to school,” said Stacey Sturner, the Graduate NWA program manager for the Northwest Arkansas Council. “We’ve provided funding to support 30 students in their return to college over the past two years, but it’s just as important that we’ve assisted many other students by connecting them with people at colleges, universities and organizations who can answer questions about returning to school.”

The fair will be at the Jones Center, 922 E. Emma Avenue in Springdale.

Established in 2012, Graduate NWA is a partnership of six colleges and universities and the Northwest Arkansas Council that shares information about higher education opportunities. The program targets Northwest Arkansas adults who’ve completed some college and encourages them to restart and complete their education.

The fair is a one-stop shop for adults who are looking to restart their education or for adults who want to attend college for the first time.  Not only can attendees visit with the six partner schools, they can speak with financial aid counselors and scholarship providers.

“Credit Counseling of Arkansas (CCOA) will be joining us for the first time,” Sturner said. “CCOA can help attendees address financial barriers that stopped them from completing or pursuing a college degree.   Our goal is that fair attendees will make contacts at this event who can assist them long after the fair is over.”

A drawing will be held to help determine the winners of the 10 tuition reimbursement scholarships. Those funds will be provided directly to one of Graduate NWA’s partner schools on behalf of the students, helping bring down tuition costs. Graduate NWA’s partner schools 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.

The importance of the fair and the overall Graduate NWA program cannot be overstated. Among Northwest Arkansas residents who are at least 25 years old, about 28 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Peer regions have a higher percentage of residents with college degrees. Business owners who are relocating and expanding to new areas of the U.S. consider a region’s level of educational attainment when determining if the region fits the company’s needs. The businesses need assurance that a region has an educated workforce ready to fill available jobs.

Raising the level of educational attainment in the region is important from a quality-of-life standpoint, too. Research indicates that individuals with more education earn more and are more likely to be employed.  Additionally, they are more likely to receive health insurance, earn pension benefits and be active citizens in their communities.

In addition to the Graduate NWA partner schools, 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, Credit Counseling of Arkansas and adult education organizations from throughout the region.