LITTLE ROCK, AK - Each year, more than 10,000 Arkansans seek to start new businesses. To help these citizens be successful in their venture, eight two-year colleges in Arkansas formed a consortium to offer degrees and certificates in Entrepreneurship. The curriculum for the degrees/certificate was approved by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB) on July 25th.
“This new degree in Entrepreneurship will give Arkansans the knowledge and skills they need to start their own businesses with confidence,” said Dr. Ed Franklin, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges. “Economic development is more important than ever in today’s economy, and this program will help to create jobs in Arkansas by enabling and empowering people to start their own businesses.”
The program will teach the basics of starting a business including how to write a business plan, how to set up a bookkeeping system, hiring workers and how to get support during the process. “We have been working for over 20 months examining best practices from other community colleges throughout the United States,” Dr. Franklin added. “Two-year colleges are anchored in their communities. We bring expertise and knowledge in education and economic development, and we are entrepreneurial! Just like a business, two-year colleges assess the market, build new programs and promote initiatives that are responsive to industry needs.”
The entrepreneurship curriculum was developed by the NorthWest Arkansas Community College Division of Business and Computer Information during the 2007-08 academic year and was presented to other two-year colleges in Arkansas for adoption as partners. Eight of the state’s 22 two-year colleges joined a consortium and will begin offering the Associate of Business degree and certificate in Entrepreneurship this fall. Two other colleges will ask for approval for the program from AHECB in October. The degree option is for an Applied Associate’s Degree in Business Management and/or a stand-alone certificate in Entrepreneurship.
A press conference to announce the program was held at Arkansas Capital Corporation in Little Rock. Arkansas Capital Corporation was formed in 1957 to provide a mechanism for financing the state’s transformation from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. “Our partnership with Arkansas Capital Corporation is one of the first if not the first of its kind promoting entrepreneurship…education and a financial corporation working together to increase opportunities for Arkansans,” Dr. Franklin said. “It will help to ensure that these new businesses are successful and can continue to provide growth and wealth.”
“For over half a century Arkansas Capital Corporation Group's mission has been the development of Arkansas enterprises,” C. Sam Walls, CEO of Arkansas Capital Corporation Group, said. “Those objectives require entrepreneurial talent and capital resources. We continue to be fully committed to our partners, such as the Association of Two-Year Colleges, who are using their resources to develop the next generation of great Arkansas entrepreneurs.”
Although the degree is in the business department, the intent is for the degree to become interdisciplinary so students in other areas can learn how to become entrepreneurial in thinking and practice regardless of their interest. “For example, if a student is focusing on graphic design in an associate’s degree, this certificate prepares them for graphic design business ownership. The curriculum also prepares students for entrepreneurial thinking within a corporate setting,” said Dr. Becky Paneitz, president of NorthWest Arkansas Community College.
The eight schools in the consortium include: Arkansas State University–Beebe; East Arkansas Community College, Forrest City; North Arkansas College, Harrison; NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville; Ouachita Technical College, Malvern; South Arkansas Community College, El Dorado; Southern Arkansas University Tech, Camden; and University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock and Southeast Arkansas College in Pine Bluff will join the consortium in October.
In addition to the eight colleges offering the Entrepreneurship degree track, the Arkansas Delta Training and Education Consortium (ADTEC) is partnering with Arkansas State University to develop a career pathway in Entrepreneurship to be delivered to 12 counties in eastern Arkansas through the ADTEC University Center, located at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis. The pathway will include multiple entry and exit points at the high school, community college, and university levels, including a certificate of proficiency, technical certificate, associate degree, and baccalaureate degree. Students can begin earning college credits while in high school that apply toward a college credential upon high school graduation. The program can be replicated in all secondary technical centers across the state.
ADTEC colleges are Arkansas Northeastern College, Blytheville; Arkansas State University-Newport; East Arkansas Community College; Mid-South Community College, West Memphis; and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, Helena-Stuttgart-DeWitt.
The two-year colleges would like to eventually include student incubators where students receive ongoing coaching and technical assistance. By providing this assistance during the start-up phase, it helps overcome the odds of business failure. They would also like to provide “e-centers” to provide resource assistance online and in non-credit workshop, and other services.
“This is just the first step to increase entrepreneurship opportunities for Arkansans. This is about a change of lifestyle. It is about providing opportunities and information for Arkansans so they can start their own businesses and help create wealth. And I think in rural Arkansas this is especially crucial,” Dr. Franklin said. “Imagine if each of our 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas helped people create just five companies…that would be 110 companies. If each company had 10 employees, which would mean 1,100 new jobs in Arkansas! This is our dream, and we believe it is a dream that can come true.”
AATYC joined the National Association for Community Colleges and Entrepreneurship (NACCE) and sent faculty and staff to the National Conference.