Black River Technical College

Black River Technical College (BRTC) is a comprehensive, two-year accredited institution of higher learning serving college transfer and career and technical education (CTE) students in northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and beyond. It offers both traditional and distance education options. The main campus is in Pocahontas (Randolph County), with a second campus in Paragould (Greene County). Lawrence and Clay counties are also in BRTC’s service area.

Enrollment in credit classes as of the fall of 2014 was 1,962, with some students enrolling in college basics and others enrolling in one of the college’s seventeen different associate’s degree programs and twenty-nine certificate programs. Both campuses also serve a significant number through continuing education and business outreach, as well as GED/adult education programs.

The institution opened in 1973 as Black River Vocational-Technical School (BRVTS), the ninth vo-tech school in the state, to an enrollment of thirty-eight students in six technical programs. The original two-building campus was funded primarily by federal assistance from the Economic Development Administration and the Ozarks Regional Commission. The City of Pocahontas donated the original forty-four acres adjacent to the industrial park on Highway 304, where the main campus remains.

John Rapert directed the school for the first five years. M. Richard Gaines, who served as assistant director during that time, ascended to the head position in 1978. In 1991, the legislative approval of Act 1244 set into motion the conversion of the vocational-technical schools into two-year colleges or branches of four-year institutions. With the school’s conversion to a technical college, Gaines was named president. In 2011, Dr. Wayne Hatcher, formerly of Rich Mountain Community College, was named president.  Dr. Eric Turner, formerly of Williams Baptist University, was named the next president in June 2014. Martin Eggensperger was named president in 2019.

BRTC, by 2008, comprised ninety-seven acres and twenty-three buildings, including an Aviation Maintenance Technology facility nearby on Highway 67 at the Pocahontas Municipal Airport, as well as a Fire Science facility approximately eleven miles from the main campus in the College City Industrial Park at Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County). A major expansion at the Greene County Industrial Training Center added a 16,500-square-foot academic complex. The new Business Technology Center on the Pocahontas campus boasts the high-tech Community Conference Center for college and community use.

Accredited by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission, BRTC offers Associate of Arts degrees for transfer students; Associate of Applied Science degrees in such fields as business technology, crime scene investigation, early childhood education, and registered nursing; technical certificates, including automotive services, machine shop, practical nursing, and welding; proficiency certificates in law enforcement administration, medical coding, and medical transcription; and a certificate in basic police training. BRTC is home to the Law Enforcement Training Academy, where officers from across the state complete basic police officer training.

The college also hosts Project REACH (Researching Early Arkansas Cultural Heritage), a heritage preservation project to restore the 1828 Rice House, documented as the state’s oldest log structure of its type, and the 1833 Looney Tavern/Inn, two historic structures in northwest Randolph County dating to Arkansas’s territorial era. Additionally, BRTC worked with the community to spearhead the creation of the Century Wall, a monument in Black River Overlook Park depicting the faces of 100 Americans of diverse ethnicity who shaped the nation in the twentieth century. The college is a frequent partner with community organizations in various endeavors, including the Eddie Mae Herron Center—a former African Methodist Episcopal church and African-American one-room schoolhouse—and the BRAD Agency for the construction of a Head Start Early Childhood Education Center adjacent to the Pocahontas campus.

For additional information:
Black River Technical College. (accessed June 15, 2023).

Black River Technical College Self-Study Report. Submitted to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, December 2001.

Jan Ziegler
Black River Technical College


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