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NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) is a comprehensive public two-year college serving the citizens of Benton and Washington counties. Established in 1989, the college has grown rapidly to become the second-largest community college in the state. The college’s main campus is in Bentonville (Benton County), with educational centers located in Rogers (Benton County), Gentry (Benton County), Bella Vista (Benton County), Springdale (Washington County), and Fayetteville (Washington County). The college offers four associate’s degrees (Associate of Arts, Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science) and a wide variety of workforce training programs, technical certificates, and adult education classes. NWACC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.
NWACC was created after a special election on August 15, 1989, in which voters in the Bentonville and Rogers school districts in Benton County approved a three-mill ad valorem tax. The need for the college was evident from the success of a branch campus in Bentonville that North Arkansas Community College (NACC), now North Arkansas College (NorthArk), had established. From its inception, NWACC enjoyed the enthusiastic support of key leaders within the community, particularly the members of the first board of trustees. One of the first acts of the board was to capitalize the “W” in “NorthWest” to make the acronym NWACC and distinguish the college from NACC. The board selected Dr. Bob C. Burns to serve as the first president of the college, with his formal investiture on February 5, 1990.
With the hiring of twenty full-time faculty and sixty part-time instructors, NWACC welcomed 1,232 students when classes first met in August 1990. That set a record in the state for the largest number of students enrolled in a new community college. NWACC began as a “college without walls” meeting in multiple rented facilities throughout Benton and Washington counties. The college met in makeshift classrooms in local libraries, fire departments, city chambers, hospitals, churches, and even an old preschool.
NWACC grew rapidly, and its leaders soon acknowledged the need for a permanent main campus. The college gained a permanent home in Bentonville in 1995 with the construction of its main building, now known as Burns Hall. Originally constructed with 91,000 square feet, the building has since been remodeled and expanded to its present size of 181,000 square feet.
NWACC’s second and current president, Dr. Becky Paneitz, arrived on campus in August 2003. During her administration, the college’s student body has grown from 4,945 in the fall of 2003 to 8,533 in the fall of 2011. Each student is enrolled in an average of eight credit hours. Approximately 7,000 others in the community are served annually through workforce training programs and other non-credit classes. In addition to the expansion of Burns Hall, the college built the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies in 2003; Benton County’s first parking garage in 2006; and a three-story, 84,000-square-foot student center in 2007. The college has announced plans to build the Shewmaker Center for Global Business Development and to purchase and remodel a neighboring medical facility into the NWACC Center for Nursing.
In addition to support from the community and individual donors, NWACC has benefitted from generous support from the Wal-Mart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation. NWACC works closely with Wal-Mart and other nearby corporate entities to provide workforce training. NWACC has a partnership agreement with the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville that allows students to complete an elementary education degree on NWACC’s campus. In addition, new programs and the college’s online, Web-based courses are growing rapidly. As of the spring of 2008, 1,544 students were taking at least one course online.
For additional information: “College to Expedite New Business Center.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Northwest Arkansas Edition). September 14, 2007.
NorthWest Arkansas Community College. http://www.nwacc.edu/ (accessed November 15, 2007).
“Paneitz Chosen as NWACC President.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Northwest Arkansas Edition). May 1, 2003.
“Projects on Track at College.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Northwest Arkansas Edition). June 24, 2006.
Gene VinzantNorthWest Arkansas Community College
Last Updated 11/28/2011
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