Crowley's Ridge Technical Institute
The Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute (CRTI) was a technical college in Forrest City (St. Francis County) that provided skilled workers for local industries. It operated from 1967 to 2017, when it was merged with the nearby East Arkansas Community College (EACC).
In 1966, the CRTI building on Newcastle Road was approved for construction by the State Board of Vocational Education; the building site was donated by the Forrest City Chamber of Commerce. Before it was completed, however, CRTI operated one welding class started by the Manpower Development and Training Act program with approval from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which provided $90,860 to finance the thirty-two-week program, covering both student costs and the salary for two instructors. This program started on February 6, 1967, and was held in the Vaughn Building on North Rosser Street. Of the thirty students, eighteen qualified for certification after completing 960 hours in welding and 320 hours of basic education. This group was CRTI’s first graduating class; their commencement ceremony was held in the new building on September 22, 1967.
Students were accepted September 1967, and six programs were offered. More programs were added from 1971 to 1973 as a result of the expansions of training facilities. In March 1992, CRTI was approved by the State Board of Workforce Education to become a technical institute.
In 2000, a state task force recommended a merger between Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute and East Arkansas Community College following an eight-month study that showed that the two schools had some overlapping curriculum. The proposal was an effort to save government expenses, but the changes could come only by agreement between the schools or by legislative mandate. The board of CRTI voted in May 2001 to reject the panel’s recommendation.
This technical college offered one- to two-year programs. Enrollment varied from 265 to 340 students a semester. CRTI offered full-time, part-time, extended day, and GED programs. These programs included: auto body repair, automotive service technology, basic drafting technology, business technology, accounting and administrative office technology, child care, computer repair and networking, cosmetology, emergency medical technician, industrial equipment technology, major appliance service, nursing assistant, practical nursing, residential construction/carpentry, residential heat and air conditioning, tractor trailer driving, welding, and adult education. Each program had an advisory committee consisting of local business and industry leaders.
On October 20, 1988, the CRTI held the first Crowley’s Ridge Vo-Tech Bar-B-Que. It was started by CRTI faculty and staff to establish a book fund for their students. This book fund was intended to provide students receiving the Pell Grant an opportunity to get their books at the beginning of the semester before their financial aid was disbursed. In 1988, the Crowley’s Ridge Vo-Tech Bar-B-Que served 500 pounds of meat and sold 1,502 tickets. This tradition continued annually; in 2010, the institute served 5,250 pounds of meat and sold 2,552 tickets.
Another community event that CRTI took part in is the Christmas Parade, for which students use skills learned in class to design and build a float. Students also participated in Skills USA, a competition for those who are training in technical, trade, or skilled services occupations, in both a statewide competition held in Hot Springs (Garland County) in April and a national competition in Kansas City, Missouri, in June.
For many years, state officials had considered merging CRTI and EACC in order to save money, but the staff and board of CRTI had resisted this push, worried that a vocational/technical curriculum would be sacrificed in such a merger. In 2017, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 636, which laid out the process for merging the two institutions, should they decide to merge. On July 31, 2017, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted for the merger, and EACC assumed the property, personnel, and funding of CRTI.
For additional information:
“Welder’s Course OKed for Area.” Daily Times-Herald, January 11, 1967, p. 1.
“Welding Class Graduation Set Friday.” Daily Times-Herald, September 21, 1967, p. 1.
Forrest City, Arkansas
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