Mountain View native Dr. Bentley Wallace just concluded his first year on the job as president of SouthArk. Wallace is an Arkansas community-college veteran, having served in leadership roles at Arkansas State University-Newport and the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, where he served as vice chancellor of economic development.
His doctorate in human resource and workforce development education from the UA included a research focus on career readiness.
AMP: Are more students attending SouthArk for skills training or as an entry point to a four-year college?
Dr. Wallace: Roughly 75 percent of our students are in career-prep programs including health science, industrial technology, process technology, welding, automotive maintenance, culinary arts, etc. The remaining 25 percent of our students are in associate degree programs that are designed to transfer easily to a four-year college or university.
AMP: Is the rising cost of higher education making skills training a more attractive option for many students?
Dr. Wallace: Prospective students are becoming more and more aware of the value proposition that technical education provides when compared to traditional paths in higher education.
Community colleges like SouthArk allow students to access and complete their higher ed journey at lower costs, then transition into employment sooner. The health science and technical programs at SouthArk lead to high wage/high demand careers that often exceed lifetime earnings experienced by graduates with four-year degrees.
AMP: Describe the role of a school like SouthArk in developing a community’s workforce and its overall impact on the community.
Dr. Wallace: Improving the overall economic health of the region is dependent on increasing the per-capita income of the people who live here.
South Arkansas Community College prepares graduates to be safe, productive and well-retained employees for the leading employers of southern Arkansas and beyond. Education attainment is a leading contributor to earning potential, and most 21st century jobs require some education past high school, but not a four-year degree. SouthArk provides the vital link between training and economic growth.