From infants to senior citizens, education opportunities in Northwest Arkansas abound.
The public school system tops state rankings, and alternative education facilities, such as Hass Hall Academy or one of the several Montessori schools, give residents various ways to foster the young minds of the area.
Bentonville, Rogers and Rogers Heritage high schools are in the top five Arkansas schools, alongside Haas Hall in Fayetteville and KIPP Delta Collegiate High School in Helena, according to the most recent U.S. News study of education, usnews.com/education.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is ranked 132nd out of 1,600 national universities in the U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings. The UA also received accolades as best undergraduate business program and best undergraduate engineering program. John Brown University, located in Siloam Springs, was awarded top-honors as the best regional college in the South.
Not Just For Kids
There are a number of other organizations in the area that provide post-secondary education.
In 2011, the Arkansas Department of Career Education designated the Northwest Institute of Technology as the leading secondary career center of Northwest Arkansas. In addition to post-secondary learning, NIT also helps prepare youth for their futures by providing career-focused training to high school students within a 25-mile radius. (ace.arkansas.gov)
NIT offers education to adults as well through three primary divisions of programs: diploma, community and adult. The diploma program is nine to 18 months of training for a specific occupation. Popular programs include automotive service technology, computer information systems and practical nursing. The diploma programs have competitive enrollment and the average age of students is 21-28 years old.
“With a tough economy like there is now, sometimes people don’t have the time or money for traditional post-secondary education. With our programs, we can help train someone to go to work this year. We also have a 80 percent placement rate, and our tuition is incredibly affordable at $47 a credit hour,” said Keith Peterson, vice president of instruction.
Community education programs are offered to individuals and businesses to enhance skills. The Adult Education Center at NTI provides free instruction to adults pursuing a GED, learning English as a second language, studying for citizenship and improving academic or computer skills.
Middle-aged stay young
Education for adults more than 50 is offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arkansas.
“As 78 million baby boomers enter into the retirement years across the nation, many are searching for new ways to stay active and keep their brains constantly engaged. The simple solution is lifelong learning,” said Kathleen Dorn, Osher director.
“Lifelong learning plays a significant role in the psychological, emotional and physical wellness of older adults. It is also an opportunity to make our own unique contribution to society, meet new people, learn new knowledge and explore new ideas.”
Members of the institute have increased from 113 in 2007 to more than 825 members in June 2012, and the retention rate is 85 percent. Current programs include landscape digital photography, presidential campaigns, the history of Eureka Springs and technology training for the iPhone and iPad.
“These older adults in Northwest Arkansas are tremendous because they share an unprecedented desire to continue learning, volunteer their skills and give back to their communities. These lifelong learning activities produce a pool of talented, educated and engaged older adults who will inspire younger generations,” Dorn said.