Created in 1907 as a normal school looking to “rid Arkansas of haphazard schoolteachers”, today’s University of Central Arkansas, located in Conway Arkansas, has grown to become the 4th largest institution of higher learning in the state. The motto of “You Belong”, UCA is a very affordable way to become part of a “community of thinkers and learners” from 39 states and 66 countries looking for instruction in everything from education (UCA’s roots) to Physical/Occupational Therapy.
Currently fielding a student body of 11,000 (in a town that is home to two other colleges), UCA offers 80 undergrad and 39 graduate degrees, as well as 5 doctorates, and numerous professional and graduate certifications. The academic offerings range from the unique (Digital Filmmaking) to some of the largest programs in the state (Psychology, Speech-Language Pathology), including the only Occupational Therapy tract in Arkansas universities.
The school also offers “residential colleges”, a program instituted in 1997 that allows students and professors to live in the same halls, learning and co-habitating to create a complete environment of learning. A “community of learners” that is open to all students, residential college doesn’t only help the transition from high school to college, but makes it easier to step out of school and into the workplace with more confidence.
UCA does offer distance learning across its 8 colleges/schools (including the graduate and honors departments), with online courses every semester to help students learn at times when going to campus simply isn’t an option. There is a selection of online courses every semester that follow the same guidelines as their traditional equivalents, as well as extended study courses for those who want to take more classes, but are worried about time constraints, as it allows a maximum time of 6 months to complete (8 weeks minimum). However, taking an extended study course disallows the student from getting on the Dean’s list and may “affect receipt of presidential scholarships”.
For those seeking online degrees, there are a few options for graduate students, with two Master’s programs and a graduate certificate. The Geography department offers the Master of Geographic Information Systems degree, as well as a slightly pared down GIS graduate certificate (a 5 course sequence) that requires little more than a Bachelor and at least one undergraduate GIS course. UCA also offers a Health Sciences Master of Science that offers online education in “assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating health education programs”, perfect for those already working in the field who are looking to achieve “upward mobility” for busy professionals who can’t take time out to go back to school.
In the end, though, non-credit online learning is the bulk of the distance education here, through a partnership with ed2go that offers “hundreds of online, instructor facilitated career training and lifelong learning courses”. For the intellectually curious, the lifelong learning courses are affordable, six week classes that use online techniques to deliver lessons, quizzes, and discussion groups (including web design, health care/nutrition/fitness, and PC troubleshooting). Then there are career training courses, all of which are “open enrollment and self-paced” classes designed to help “prepare you for the transition from the classroom to the workplace” with offerings in real estate, business and industry, and education, all created by working professionals “from various fields work[ing] to provide the most effective web-based learning experience available today”.
One of the most affordable and complete educations in the south, the University of Central Arkansas combines intellectual curiosity and a commitment to education to create an environment where every student belongs, and every student can succeed in.