Upward of 75 high school students took part in a college preview day Friday at Southeast Arkansas College.
SEARK College Director of Recruitment Barbara Dunn welcomed students from Pine Bluff High School, Dumas High School, and Arkansas Virtual Academy, which is an online school. The students learned from instructors in the subjects of general studies, technical studies and nursing.
The event is an opportunity for prospective college students from area high schools to tour the SEARK campus and learn about its academic offerings.
SEARK College will also hold other college preview days for high school students from Watson Chapel, Dollarway, White Hall, Sheridan, Drew Central, Rison and Monticello.
The students listened to instructors discuss careers in nursing, electrical work and other disciplines; applied to the college, ate lunch, and received a scholarship to SEARK. Each high school junior who takes part in the event receives a scholarship worth $338. Each high school senior receives a scholarship worth $676.
Southeast Arkansas College President Stephen Hilterbran explained the scholarships help to turn prospective students into admitted students.
The college has seen a decline in student enrollment and is making proactive steps to attract recent high school graduates.
“Anytime there is a raise in the economic development, people go back to work,” Hilterbran, who has a doctorate degree in education, said. “This is a way to get students to come in and look at us. We call it try and buy. … If you like what we are doing, come here in the fall.”
SEARK College Vice President for Student Affairs Scott Kuttenkuler compared the cost of admission at two-year-colleges versus four-year colleges.
“You can go two years here for less money than you would pay for one year at the lowest-cost four-year college,” Kuttenkuler said. “We have a quality product. We are sharing it with people. And if this allows them to taste, they will realize that.”
Hilterbran notes that whether the high school students enroll at SEARK, they benefit from the College Preview Day.
“You are not a number here; you are a face,” Hilterbran said. “We are a small rural campus. We want to make sure our students succeed not just because we want them to success but because our funding depends on it.”
Kuttenkuler said statistics predict that certain students will do better than others. Yet statistics do not tell the whole story, as each student can exceed projections or not meet expectations. SEARK College offers robust tutoring to help students to succeed.
“We have federal grants to provide support,” Kuttenkuler said. “There’s also Career Pathways, which helps students financially with the things in life that happen outside of the classroom. Sometimes it’s not trouble with a class. It’s ‘Do I have a baby-sitter? Do I have gas money?’ We really look at the whole person and try to figure out how do we help them.”
SEARK College hosts College Preview Day every year, Dunn said.
“We let them know the programs we have to offer,” Dunn said. “In addition, students can start here, receive an associate degree, and transfer to a four-year university.”
Pine Bluff High School senior Jaymon Burns applied to Southeast Arkansas College on Friday as part of College Preview Day. He was learning about the general studies classes at the college and intends to enroll there.
“I know they have a lot to offer in general studies and I want to be here for one semester or a year,” Burns said.
SEARK College Radiology Program Director Tina Pierce discussed health science careers and advised students not to focus on money in determining their academic majors. Instead she advised they identify their passions and match it with a career pathway.
“You do not want to spend the rest of your life going to a job that you hate,” Pierce said. “Get up, every morning, and want to go to work. … A lot of people think ‘I am going to go into the medical field so I can make a lot of money.’ Yes, that’s fine. But if you hate being with patients and do not like dealing with body fluids, you are not going to be very good at it and therefore you are not going to be kept around for very long.”
Heating and air conditioning instructor John Pyland discussed the importance of being safe while working with electricity. He said the college is testing students in the technical studies programs for drugs. He advised that he will help students who complete such programs connect with employers.
“In Arkansas we cannot live in the summer time without air conditioning,” Pyland said. “Elderly people will pass away because they do not have central air.”