Arkansas State University Three Rivers (ASU Three Rivers)

Arkansas State University Three Rivers (ASU Three Rivers) in Malvern (Hot Spring County) is a comprehensive two-year college in south-central Arkansas and is part of the Arkansas State University System. In addition, the college oversees the Ouachita Area Career Center (OACC), post-secondary programs in cosmetology and nursing, the Ouachita Area Adult Education Center (OAAEC), and the Workforce Center. ASU Three Rivers is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

The college began as a vocational school. In 1969, the State Board of Education established Ouachita Vocational Technical School (OVTS) to offer occupational and technical training for Clark, Dallas, Grant, Hot Spring, and Saline counties, and the school opened in January 1972 with 292 students. The school also began providing General Equivalency Diploma (GED) courses later that year. While a permanent campus was under construction, classes met in the former Wilson High School building, which had been the African-American high school prior to integration. In 1985, the State Board of Education designated OVTS a high school vocational center to provide career-oriented training to students in the area’s eleven high schools. The vocational-technical school taught automotive technology, cosmetology, food service, small-engine repair, welding, classes designed to meet the specific needs of area businesses, and post-secondary practical nursing.

OTVS operated until 1991, when it became Ouachita Technical College (OTC). In 1988, the Arkansas Business Council Federation called for educational reforms that included transferring post-secondary vocational programs from the State Board of Vocational Education to the State Board of Higher Education and converting vocational-technical schools into two-year colleges. To that end, the state legislature approved the “Two-Year Postsecondary Reorganization Act of 1991” (Act 1244). The initial bill did not include OVTS, but at the urging of local business leaders and educators, state senator George Hopkins introduced a separate bill to redesignate OVTS as Ouachita Technical College. That legislation (Act 617) was signed into law prior to Act 1244, making OTC Arkansas’s first technical college.

Conversion from OVTS to OTC occurred on July 1, 1991, and Governor Bill Clinton appointed the Board of Trustees in October of that year. To facilitate the transformation, OTC worked with Henderson State University (HSU) to offer general education classes at OTC. HSU developed a curriculum and provided faculty for courses that allowed OTC students to earn college-level credits. In February 1994, the NCA granted OTC accreditation candidacy, and the school assumed responsibility for the college programs. Four hundred and eighty-two students enrolled for fall classes, and in May 1995, the college bestowed forty-five graduation awards, which included associate degrees, technical certificates, and certificates of proficiency. Upon full accreditation from the NCA two years later, OTC officially became an institution of higher education.

With accreditation, OTC began improving its academic facilities. To support that effort, the City of Malvern passed a one-cent sales tax dedicated to the college. The revenue allowed OTC to construct a 35,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 1999 and provided classrooms, offices, and a library. To help meet the growing demand for medical-care training, OTC constructed an allied health building in 2003, which houses the certified nursing assistant (CAN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and registered nurse (RN) programs.

The college experienced tremendous growth in enrollment, especially early in the twenty-first century when OTC was among America’s fastest-growing two-year colleges. From an initial enrollment of 210 students in 1991, the student body was 1,445 for the fall 2014 semester.  In July 2011, the name of the college was officially changed to College of the Ouachitas. In 2014, OTC had 104 full-time employees, thirty-one of whom were faculty members. In June 2014, the college opened the Robohand Print Farm, reportedly the largest 3D print farm in the world at the time.

In February 2019, the college signed a merger agreement with Arkansas State University, to be effective at the beginning of 2020. In September of that year, it was announced that the proposed new name for the institution would be Arkansas State University Three Rivers.

ASU Three Rivers features a broad curriculum. Through its divisions of Allied Health Science; Applied Science Technology; Arts, Sciences, and Education; Business Technology; and Professional Studies, the college offers certification in a number of academic, law enforcement, medical, and vocational fields. ASU Three Rivers grants Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts degrees in nursing, computer information services, engineering and manufacturing technology, general technology, criminal justice, crime scene investigation, law enforcement administration, general education, teaching, accounting, office administration, management, medical office administration, and early childhood education.

ASU Three Rivers continues to provide high-quality training for high school students, to offer basic education for adults, and to meet the needs of business and industry. Ouachita Area Career Center has programs in automotive service technology, cosmetology, industrial equipment maintenance, medical professions education, criminal justice, power equipment technology, and welding. Ouachita Area Adult Education Center holds GED courses, offers English as a second language classes, sponsors Workforce for Growth in the Economy (WAGE) training, provides Even Start education, and operates a Career Pathways office. The Workforce Center offers customized courses for area employers, teaches electrical apprentice classes, and sponsors continuing education programs. In August 2021, ASU Three Rivers and six public school districts partnered to open the Saline County Career Technical Campus in Benton (Saline County), which offers a variety of workforce training options.

For additional information:
Arkansas State University Three Rivers. (accessed June 15, 2023).

“Ouachita Technical College Institutional Self Study Report.” Chicago: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, 2000.

Walkenhorst, Emily. “Malvern School Takes ‘Three Rivers’ Brand.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 21, 2019, pp. 1B, 3B.

Marvin Schultz
Ouachita Technical College


No comments on this entry yet.