Governor Announces Regional Alliance Between COTO, NPC, HSU

Malvern, Arkansas – Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the Southern Arkansas Regional Alliance (SARA) Wednesday between College of the Ouachitas (COTO), National Park College (NPC), and Henderson State University (HSU). 

The institutions collaborated to form the alliance in response to the Governor’s Closing the Gap 2020 master plan for higher education. The goal of the regional alliance is to create an innovative, collaborative, 21st century delivery model for higher education and workforce development initiatives in Arkansas that will prioritize student success, degree attainment and workforce development ahead of tradition and turf. The agreement also includes strategies for creating institutional efficiencies through shared resources. 

Dr. Maria Markham, Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) reflected on the Governor’s call for more accountability for institutions of higher education in October. She noted a number of initiatives have been announced in response to the Governor’s call. The Higher Education Productivity Funding Model is a productivity-based approach that emphasizes student success, as well as access. She explained that today’s announcement, which includes two of the state’s community colleges and one four-year university – will allow these institutions to prioritize student success, degree attainment and workforce development in Arkansas.

Dr. Steve Rook, COTO President said, “Alliances of this type are fairly common within community colleges but not necessarily with a mixture of both two-year and four-year institutions. The alliance allows the three schools to set up a framework that will promote student success and workforce development in our region. While the two-year schools focus on meeting our primary mission within our service areas, the additional help from Henderson State University will be instrumental to the alliance’s success. The MOU will be the center of the relationship for the three of us as we work together in higher education and economic development promoting the student success in our area.”

“Our partnership will create greater opportunities for the students in our region. We will establish more seamless degree options and increase student degree attainment throughout south Arkansas as we simplify transfer pathways between our institutions,” said Dr. Glen Jones, Henderson State University President. “We look forward to serving as a catalyst for economic development in south Arkansas as we work with leaders and communities to promote stronger cooperation, industry engagement and branding throughout our region,” he added.

NPC President Dr. John Hogan said, “Our main goal is to increase degree completions for our service areas by compressing time to degree and eliminating wasted coursework which will result in keeping quality graduates in the area. NPC has prioritized expansion of transfer agreements for Garland County students. We believe this alliance will help strengthen our efforts in that area.” He noted, “This alliance is not a merger and it is not exclusive to COTO, NPC, and Henderson State. We look forward to welcoming other institutions who may contribute to the group’s mission.”


About NPC
National Park College was established in 1973 and is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The College enrolls nearly 5,000 credit and non-credit students per semester. NPC is a comprehensive two-year institution offering associate degrees and certificates as well as continuing education, community services and workforce training.

About Henderson State
Henderson State University, located in the heart of southwest Arkansas, provides a learning environment that prepares students for a lifetime of intellectual and personal growth in a global society. For 125 years, Henderson State has worked to bridge student aspirations to career success by instilling in students the skills employers most want – communication, decision-making, teamwork and problem-solving – through the application of a strong core of liberal arts classes that are applied through professional studies.

About COTO
College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, Arkansas, provides high quality, accessible educational opportunities at the freshman and sophomore level in associate degree, technical certificate, and certificate of proficiency programs, a college-transfer program, continuing education, and industry-specific training to support individual and community needs in Arkansas.  As directed by its mission, the College “continually identifies and addresses the changing learning needs of the communities it serves.”  Annual enrollments include over 1,800 credit and over 1,200 non-credit students. To learn more, visit

Watch the full announcement here

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