Four-Year: Colleges and Universities

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Arkansas Baptist College

Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a four-year historically black liberal arts institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and affiliated with the Consolidated Missionary Baptist State Convention of Arkansas. In its quest to be a voice for the underrepresented student, ABC provides a quality education without charging out-of-state tuition fees. The vision of Arkansas Baptist College is thus: “To see our community, state, and nation positively influenced through the integration of academic scholarship and Christian principles to address issues having a detrimental effect on society.” Arkansas Baptist College was founded in 1884 by the Colored Baptists of the State of Arkansas. The school opened in November …

Arkansas State University (ASU)

Arkansas State University (ASU) is the only four-year public university in northeast Arkansas. While grounded in a heritage of service to the region, the influence and impact of ASU’s teaching and research extend throughout the state and nation. Arkansas State University had a humble beginning. On April 1, 1909, Governor George W. Donaghey signed Act 100, creating four district agricultural schools, culminating an initiative inspired by the Arkansas Farmers Union. On March 28, 1910, the trustees of the First District Agricultural School selected a farm just east of Jonesboro (Craighead County) as its location. Recruiting a leader to translate legislative authorization into educational reality, the trustees hired Victor C. Kays to be the school’s first principal. Although only twenty-eight, Kays …

Arkansas Tech University

Arkansas Tech University is a public, coeducational, regional university located in Russellville (Pope County). The university offers programs at both baccalaureate and graduate levels. The institution that became Arkansas Tech University had its origins in an early twentieth-century program known as the Country Life Movement. Designed to reverse the decline in rural life in America, the movement was part of the larger Progressive movement. The driving force for the establishment of agricultural schools in the state was the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union, a more moderate heir to the Populists and associated agrarian organizations of the late nineteenth century. Spurred on by the Farmers’ Union, the Arkansas legislature in 1909 passed Act 100 to establish a “State Agricultural School” in …

Central Baptist College

Central Baptist College in Conway (Faulkner County) is the only institution of higher education in the state affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. It complements the mission of sister schools in Texas (Jacksonville College), Mississippi (Southeastern Baptist College), as well as the disbanded Midwestern Baptist College in Oklahoma. Central Baptist College opened in 1952 in Conway under the name of Central College for Christian Workers, as the educational ministry of the North American Baptist Association (NABA), which was later renamed the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas (BMAA). The college began as an extension of Jacksonville College in Texas, holding classes in the Temple Baptist Church facilities in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Soon, however, the denomination purchased for the …

Ecclesia College

Ecclesia College describes itself as a Christian “work learning” college located in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties). Founded in 1975 by Oren Paris II as a training center for young missionaries, Ecclesia was accredited as a four-year college in 2005, with a strong emphasis in Christian faith and character, work ethic, mentoring, and service. In 2017, the college became embroiled in a scandal regarding the redirection of General Improvement Fund (GIF) money by state legislators to the small college. Ecclesia College is a branch of the “Ecclesia Network.” Ecclesia, the parent organization, was incorporated in 1976 and has participated in Christian service worldwide through ministries such as Youth With a Mission (a one-year training program), Twila Paris Productions, Bibles for the …

Harding University

Harding University, a private Christian university associated with the Churches of Christ, is located in Searcy (White County), occupying some 200 acres just east of the center of the city. It is the largest private educational institution in Arkansas. The motto of Harding University is “Developing Christian Servants.” The school was founded in Morrilton (Conway County). In April 1924, the boards of two struggling Christian junior colleges, Arkansas Christian College of Morrilton and Harper College of Harper, Kansas, agreed to combine their assets and create a single four-year institution. Adlai S. Croom was president and founder of Arkansas Christian College (1922), which had a faculty of ten, while John N. Armstrong was president of Harper College with a faculty of …

Henderson State University (HSU)

Henderson State University (HSU) is a public, co-educational university located in Arkadelphia (Clark County). HSU is Arkansas’s only public liberal-arts school and is the second-oldest publicly funded university in Arkansas, after the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). HSU was founded in 1890 as Arkadelphia Methodist College. The name was changed in 1904 to Henderson College to honor Charles Christopher Henderson and to Henderson-Brown College to honor Walter William Brown in 1911. After thirty-nine years of Methodist control of the institution, the state convention decided to close the institution and combine it with Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County). The student body of Henderson-Brown strongly opposed the idea, as did most of the administration and local citizens. After negotiations with …

Hendrix College

Hendrix College is an independent, liberal arts college located in Conway (Faulkner County) and affiliated with the United Methodist Church. In its 2007 “America’s Best Colleges” guide, U.S. News & World Report included Hendrix in the top tier of the nation’s liberal arts colleges; it was the only college or university in Arkansas to be listed. The Reverend Isham Lafayette Burrow established a school in 1876, then known as Central Institute, in Altus (Franklin County) with an initial enrollment of twenty students. In the 1881–82 school year, the name was changed to Central Collegiate Institute. In 1884, Burrow appealed to the Methodist Church for financial help. The following year, the conferences raised funds to purchase the school and elected Burrow …

John Brown University (JBU)

Founded in 1919 in Siloam Springs (Benton County), John Brown University (JBU) is a private comprehensive university known for its Christian identity, academic emphasis, and professionally oriented programs. The university began as a high school and junior college that emphasized vocational training for poor young people. It evolved into a four-year liberal arts university and later developed graduate programs in business and counseling. Throughout its history, the university has forged close ties with the churches and industries of northwest Arkansas and business leaders such as Sam Walton and John Tyson. JBU was founded by John Elward Brown, a self-educated evangelist, publisher, and radio entrepreneur who grew up in rural poverty in late-nineteenth-century Iowa. In July 1919, Brown, at that time …

Lyon College

Lyon College was founded in Batesville (Independence County) in 1872 as Arkansas College. Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, it is the state’s oldest independent college still operating under its original charter. When Batesville lost to Fayetteville (Washington County) in the bid for the state university in November 1871, Reverend Isaac J. Long and other ministers in the Arkansas Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States led the effort to establish a denominational college there. Located on the eastern edge of town, Arkansas College opened its doors in September 1872 with Long as president and only one other college-level faculty member. Typical of nineteenth-century denominational institutions, Arkansas College maintained a grammar school (which was phased out in the 1890s) …

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU)

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) is an independent, residential institution in the liberal arts tradition associated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Founded on April 8, 1886, it capped longstanding Arkansas Baptist interest in making higher learning more readily available to more people, in providing an educated ministry and educated lay leadership, in strengthening denominational loyalty, and in extending denominational influence. It gained university status in 1965 and has been rated by US News and World Report as the “No. 1 Baccalaureate College in the South” and included in its list of “Great Schools, Great Prices.” In 2013, it offered sixty-one degree options in eight schools within the university, and its mission statement proclaimed it “a Christ-centered learning community. Embracing the …

Philander Smith College

Philander Smith College was the first historically black, four-year college in Arkansas and the first historically black college to be accredited by a regional accrediting institution. Enrollment as of September 2014 was 553 students. Like most of the African-American colleges and universities in the United States, Philander Smith College originated in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau). The War Department organized the Freedmen’s Bureau on March 3, 1865, just before the Civil War ended. Throughout its six-year existence, the bureau sold confiscated properties and raised money to help the freed slaves gain access to the rights that they were denied during slavery. Among these was the right to be educated. In 1869, …

Shorter College

aka: Bethel Institute
Shorter College in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a two-year institution of higher learning with a liberal arts curriculum that has expanded to include para-professional programs. Founded as Bethel Institute in 1886 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) to educate former slaves and to train teachers, the college occupies three and a half blocks at 600 Locust Street, east of Interstate 30. A thirty-three-member board of trustees, chaired by the bishop of the AME’s Twelfth Episcopal District in Arkansas and Oklahoma, oversees the school. Classes were first held in the basement of Bethel AME Church at 9th and Broadway in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 15, 1886. Rising enrollment led to acquisition in 1888 of a two-story frame building …

Southern Arkansas University (SAU)

Southern Arkansas University (SAU) is a comprehensive regional public university located in Magnolia (Columbia County). For over a century, the school has provided increasing levels of educational opportunity in southwest Arkansas. Third District Agricultural School The school was established on April 1, 1909, when Governor George W. Donaghey signed Act 100 creating the Third District Agricultural School (TDAS) and three sister institutions at Jonesboro (Craighead County), Monticello (Drew County), and Russellville (Pope County). The Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union had campaigned vigorously in Arkansas and other states for these vocational agricultural high schools, an educational reform of the Progressive Era. Communities bid money and land in efforts to become sites for the Arkansas schools. Small farmers’ contributions won TDAS for Columbia …

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS)

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) is a state-supported liberal arts institution of higher education with its main campus located near Interstate 540 in the north-central part of the city. The 164-acre campus is a local landmark highly prized by area citizenry for its well-kept beauty. Founded in 1928 by the local school board as an extension of the high school, Fort Smith Junior College (FSJC) had thirty-four students in its first class. Financed in the beginning out of the high school budget, the college was established during a national educational movement toward two-year colleges. In 1937, FSJC students moved out of the high school itself into their own classrooms, which had been built into the new football …

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a member of the University of Arkansas system, which includes four other major campuses and the Clinton School of Public Service. UALR began in 1927 as Little Rock Junior College (LRJC), housed in the Little Rock High School Building (later Central High School) under the administration of the Little Rock School Board. It became Little Rock University (LRU) in 1957 and moved to University Avenue. LRU became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) after it merged with the University of Arkansas system in 1969. In January 2017, the chancellor announced that the shortened form of the school’s name would be UA Little Rock rather than UALR. The university is a metropolitan university that …

University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM)

The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) was established in 1909 as one of the state’s four agricultural schools. It supports the only forestry school in the state. Although the smallest of the University of Arkansas (UA) campuses, it owns the most land, including 1,036 acres devoted to forestry research and instruction, as well as 300 acres used for agricultural teaching and research. Founding: Fourth District State Agricultural SchoolFrom 1906 to 1909, the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union lobbied the state legislature to create four agricultural schools. These schools would instruct students in modern farming practices and provide a general education resulting in a high school diploma. In 1909, the Arkansas legislature passed Act 100 establishing an agricultural school in each …

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) began as Branch Normal College, which sought to accommodate the higher-educational needs of Arkansas’s African-American population. UAPB is the alma mater of such notable figures as attorney Wiley Branton Sr., Dr. Samuel Kountz, and attorney John W. Walker. State senator John Middleton Clayton sponsored a legislative act calling for the establishment of Branch Normal College, but it was not until 1875 that the state’s economic situation was secure enough to proceed with it. That year, Branch Normal was established as a branch of Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Its primary objective was educating black students to become teachers for the state’s black schools. Governor …

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (UA)

The University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) is located in the northwest corner of the state. It is Arkansas’s land grant university and is famed for its traditions, including the unique Razorback mascot. The institution was originally named Arkansas Industrial University but changed in 1899 to the University of Arkansas, reflecting its broader academic scope. It has long been an academic and cultural mainstay in Arkansas, with its research generating a great deal of economic progress for the state and its Razorback athletic team being arguably the state’s most popular. UA’s Founding The U.S. Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862, allowing 30,000 acres of public lands to be sold in each state to supply funds for …

University of Central Arkansas (UCA)

The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) has been one of Arkansas’s leading institutions of higher education for more than 100 years. Beginning as a normal school (teacher’s training institution) with approximately 100 students in 1908, UCA has become a comprehensive PhD-granting institution with 11,350 students in 2017. UCA was created by the passage of Act 317 of 1907 as Arkansas State Normal School, the only institution of higher learning in the state created for the sole purpose of teacher training. On May 15, 1907, acting governor X. O. Pindall appointed the first board of trustees. Several cities submitted bids for the school, including Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Benton (Saline County), Quitman (Cleburne County), Russellville (Pope County), and Conway (Faulkner County). The …

University of the Ozarks

The University of the Ozarks is a fully accredited, private four-year college that offers baccalaureate degrees in twenty-seven liberal arts and pre-professional programs. Enrollment in the twenty-first century has ranged between 600 and 650 students, primarily from Arkansas, but with significant numbers from Texas, Oklahoma, and Central America. Students participate in a wide range of extracurricular activities and organizations. Men’s and women’s varsity athletic teams, the Eagles, compete in six different sports in the American Southwest Conference of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. Located on a thirty-acre campus in Clarksville (Johnson County) and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the university builds on a longstanding mission of social inclusiveness, academic rigor, and spiritual edification. The origins of the …

Williams Baptist University

Williams Baptist University is a comprehensive liberal arts institution owned and operated by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Founded in Pocahontas (Randolph County) in 1941, the college was moved to Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) in 1946. The university is one of two institutions of higher education affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the other institution being Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The impetus for the establishment of the university was first provided by Dr. Henry E. Watters, former president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, who had hoped to revive Jonesboro Baptist College, an institution that had failed during the early years of the Great Depression. During the mid-1930s, Watters attempted to enlist support for the …