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BENTON -- The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will offer two new bachelor's degrees at its Benton campus starting next fall, after that campus's only four-year degree moved to the main campus.

In fall 2018, students will be able to pursue four-year degrees in business management or in interdisciplinary studies at the Benton campus, 410 River St. UALR is also looking to add a third degree option, likely after seeing which studies are in demand, UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson said.

The university and the city of Benton announced the new degree programs Tuesday, along with paid internships and new scholarship opportunities for students at the campus. The announcement comes as Saline County's population has grown by nearly 11 percent since 2010 and as just fewer than a quarter of those 25 years or older had a bachelor's degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"I know we've spent a lot of hours to try to figure out how to get degree opportunities to this campus," Benton Mayor David Mattingly said. "To me, this is an answer to a wonderful dream."

Business administration -- "a crowd-pleaser" -- had interested Benton businesses, Rogerson said. Interdisciplinary studies, he said, would be a combination of three minors -- two in social sciences and a third from any discipline -- and is customizable for the student. The interdisciplinary track would be most appropriate for transfer students or for those who have some college credits but no degree, he said.

"With these two bachelor programs, high school graduates can start and complete their degree in Benton, and those who haven't completed a degree can finish those degrees close to home and work," he said. "Together, our goal is to raise the percentage of college graduates in Benton and the surrounding communities."

UALR started providing night courses at Benton High School in 1965, and some 30 years later, the university, the Saline County Education Association and Benton city and business leaders opened the campus on River Street.

Currently, the campus serves about 250 students, most of whom are between 20 and 35 years old, said Kim Jackson, the campus's director for more than two decades. The campus offers full student services, including admissions, financial aid and academic advising, in a building that holds about 600 students, she said, adding that the Benton School District recently vacated the first floor of the building.

The campus currently has an associate's degree program in general studies, and it had a bachelor's degree program in e-commerce some five years ago, Jackson said. But the four-year program was no longer available to UALR students in Benton in July, she said.

Jackson said she had been approached in the past about the possibility of bachelor's degree programs in Benton, but the distance from the Little Rock campus hindered the efforts.

"Most people don't believe that 25 miles is that big a distance," she said. "But the reality is when you're looking for instructors and you're trying to do a program, and even though you're duplicating what's on the main campus, it took years to build that program."

The two new bachelor's degree programs -- fully face-to-face programs -- will likely be taught by a combination of existing and new faculty members, the university said. Campus leadership will iron out those details over the next year and will hire as needed.

UALR is also working with Mattingly's office and the Benton Campus Advisory Board to raise scholarship funds for students attending the campus. The groups are also hoping to roll those out by fall 2018, said Christian O'Neal, UALR's vice chancellor for university advancement.

The university will also partner with six Saline County businesses next fall to provide paid internships for students who will earn college credit and be paid. The businesses are the Bryant branch of Arvest Bank; Saline Memorial Hospital; Access Control Devices Inc.; Pear Tree Wealth Management; Ferguson's Furniture; and Slim Chickens.

Metro on 09/27/2017

Print Headline: 4-year UALR degrees set for Benton return

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