Ouachita Preparatory Academy

Ouachita Preparatory Academy was a preparatory school located on the campus of Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). It opened with the college in 1886 and was discontinued in 1916. At its height, it offered course work from the primary level to intermediate to preparatory. The preparatory level served as a feeder system for the college. The school operated to serve students from the Arkadelphia area but was also a boarding school, attracting students across Arkansas.

The Ouachita Preparatory Academy was founded the same year as Ouachita Baptist College, 1886, but it was predated by the Arkadelphia Baptist High School, a coed academy that opened in January 1877 and offered a high school course of twenty-one consecutive weeks. It was operated by Baptists in the southwestern part of Arkansas, not the state convention. The curriculum included instruction in English, Latin, Greek, mathematics, metaphysics (philosophy), and the natural sciences. Music instruction, instrument rental, and room and board were additional costs. The Arkadelphia Baptist High School was still advertising in the newspapers such as the Southern Standard in August 1880, six years before the founding of Ouachita Baptist College. The Arkansas Democrat of September 6, 1880, reported, “The Baptists have a high school at Arkadelphia.” Arkansas Baptist High School closed sometime before the founding of Ouachita Baptist College. However, Arkadelphia was chosen for Ouachita Baptist College because of past support by Baptists in southwestern Arkansas.

When Ouachita Preparatory Academy was established in 1886, it was one of several Baptist preparatory academies being opened across the state, all associated with Ouachita Baptist College and offering boarding for students. These included the Maynard Baptist Academy, the Magazine Baptist Academy, Bentonville Baptist Academy, and the Mountain Home Baptist Academy. At this point, this network of schools was known as the Ouachita-Central System, which included co-ed Ouachita Baptist College, Central College (for women) in Conway (Faulkner County), and the five preparatory campuses, which were also co-ed.

The instructors at the Ouachita Preparatory Academy in Arkadelphia were also professors at the Ouachita Baptist College, so students had the opportunity of being taught by degreed instructors. In the Catalogue of Announcement of the Ouachita Central System, 1902–1903, and for several subsequent years, the preparatory level courses included four years of mathematics, which included basic and advanced algebra and geometry; three years of Latin; four years of English, including grammar and literature; and two years of science, including physical geography, physiology, physics, and chemistry. Also required were four years of history and geography, plus two years of spelling and penmanship. The academies throughout the state as well as the Ouachita academy used the same textbooks.

At the Ouachita Preparatory Academy, all female student boarders lived on the college campus in the Young Ladies’ Home, while young men boarded in private homes around Arkadelphia. The costs for the young women included a room, fuel, light, and laundry, at $140 per term (tuition ranged from $30 to $50 per term). Young men could expect to pay $10 to $14 a month room and board in local private homes. The only housing on the college campus available to young men was for those  studying for the ministry.

According to historian Michael Arrington, the Ouachita Preparatory Academy was dissolved, along with the college’s business department, in 1916, by the college’s president, Charles E. Dicken, as a budget-cutting measure. By this point, public high schools were becoming standardized, so private high schools were no longer a necessity for students seeking a high school diploma. After 1916, Ouachita Baptist College had to look to public high schools to recruit college students.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Baptist High School.” Advertisement, Southern Standard (Arkadelphia, Arkansas) April 21, 1877, p. 3.

Arrington, Michael E. Ouachita Baptist University: The First Hundred Years. Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1985.

Henderson, Trennis, ed. Ouachita Voices: Celebrating 125 years of Academic and Christian Excellence. Atlanta: Bookhouse Group, 2011.

Ouachita Catalogues/Bulletins 1902–1903 to Present. Ouachita Baptist University.

“Ouachita College.” Advertisement, Arkansas Democrat, July 3, 1904, p. 13.

“Ouachita-Central System of Colleges.” Advertisement, Arkansas Democrat, July 24, 1903, p. 5.

Mary Alice Chambers
North Little Rock, Arkansas


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