UA Rich Mountain announces addition of student housing

UA Rich Mountain Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson has announced what will be the most transformative building project in the history of the college – the addition of on-campus student housing.

The Arkansas Legislature voted in 2017 to allow community colleges to pursue housing options, joining several states already offering on campus housing.

“This will be the most transformative building project in this college’s history,” said Chancellor Wilson. He explained that the college is now positioned to actively recruit not only local students but student-athletes beyond its immediate three county service area. “Having on-campus housing available to our students will change the culture for our students, creating more cohesiveness that is difficult to foster without them. Student life and the overall college experience will also be enriched, not to mention, we are also now positioned to host international students. This is a game-changer for UA Rich Mountain and this entire region.”

Wilson said he struggled with the decision of whether to proceed with the plan of announcing this week after learning of the loss of one of the most instrumental leaders of the college, Bill Abernathy. “His passing is a tremendous loss not only to his family, and to us as a college, but to all of Arkansas rural education. However, I also know few things would bring him as much joy as seeing this college make this next step… to continue to grow and expand our ability to be able to transform more lives and future generations. I can’t think of a better way to honor his legacy.”

This announcement is coming on the heels of one of the most forward thinking 4-year university tuition strategies in the nation. The Arkansas Transfer Achievement Scholarship was announced by U of A Fayetteville’s Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on the Rich Mountain campus. This unprecedented move allows associate degree grads from any community college in the UA System (including Rich Mountain) to transfer to the Fayetteville and continue to pay the same tuition they are currently playing, which calculates to over $5,000 in savings for a full-time student. This scholarship will help to eliminate cost as a one of the main barriers for associate degree graduates from Rich Mountain to transfer to the flagship campus.

With Mena now poised to be fully transformed into a college town, Mena Mayor Seth Smith said the City couldn’t be more excited or proud to see all of the tremendous growth from the local college. “UA Rich Mountain has the potential to be one of the largest economic catalysts in our region over the next few years. I am thrilled to see the college growing in new and innovative ways. Any circumstance in which the City and college can work to bring new growth and opportunity to our area is a win for everyone.”

The $7+ million project will boast 144 beds and will also expand the current student union and bookstore to accommodate a larger dining hall. All of the construction will lay behind the main campus and according to Wilson, has been expertly designed by MAHG architects in Ft. Smith to allow for future growth, while also creating a small ‘village’ feel among the on-campus residential community.

He also explained that the administration and local Board of Visitors have taken an extremely conservative approach in discerning the number of beds to build, saying, “We may have been too conservative because with the enthusiasm and success our three new coaches are experiencing, this first build may be filled to capacity with just student-athletes.” Traditionally, all student-athletes are required to live on campus.

Early construction work is already underway with the goal of being move-in ready by mid-July 2020. Administration is pushing for builders to have one building, housing 32 beds, to be complete by the end of January. Turn-Key Construction Management, also based out of Fort Smith, will be overseeing the project. “We’ve worked with Turn-Key before with upgrades and they have always provided stellar service. They will be incorporating local sub-contractors as much as possible,” said Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance / Athletic Director Morris Boydstun.

The actual renderings and plans of the project will be debuted during an official ground breaking ceremony scheduled for June 3. “More details will be coming very soon,” said Wilson.

The UA Rich Mountain will also be hosting a picnic June 11 with additional details on this project. The fundraiser is $30 per person. To RSVP, contact Jessie Barr at 479-394-7622 ext 1221 or jbarr@uarichmountain.edu.

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