College Fair Will Connect Returning Students with Schools

Graduate NWA is putting on its second Come Back to College Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 7 in a push to help adults complete their education.

The fair, which is from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., brings together representatives of six Northwest Arkansas colleges and universities, scholarship providers and academic advisers. The focus is on assisting adults interested in completing a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or technical certificate.

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 their education.

“People access information on the Graduate NWA website to learn more about returning to college, but every person interested in returning to college has 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 and help them identify the best paths toward completing a degree.”

Graduate NWA has provided 21 tuition reimbursement scholarships in the past, and organizers will be giving out 20 additional $500 scholarships to people who attend Tuesday’s fair. A drawing will be held to help determine the winners.

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 at least a bachelor’s degree. 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.

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.

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 and adult education organizations from throughout the region.