The National Park College (NPC) board of trustees approved a resolution allowing the college to move forward with submitting a Letter of Intent to the Arkansas Division of Higher Education to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.
The resolution was presented Wednesday (Aug. 26) during the regular monthly board meeting of the Hot Springs-based college.
“With this resolution, we are asking you to grant permission for us to pursue the approvals necessary to add bachelor’s degrees to our program menu.”
The school plans to begin with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree due to the critical need for the local health care industry and because students have repeatedly expressed the need for the degree.
“Our BSN would be a post-licensure completion degree for the students that complete our RN program and any registered nurse in the area that wishes to achieve their BSN,” said Dr. Wade Derden, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
“The process to do this will be long and will require a separate site visit by Higher Learning Commission and by state appointed visitors, although we are hoping to coordinate that effort. Even if we can get all the approvals, I cannot imagine us offering the degree before fall 2023, so we are at the starting line here,” Derden said.
Dr. Douglas Ross, president for CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, said the need for nursing graduates was “significant,” especially due to COVID-19.
“There is a significant nursing shortage across the country and certainly across Arkansas. There were significant shortages even before the COVID pandemic. If you look nationally in the next three to five years, there is going to be a need for over two million nurses,” Ross said.
“Our local healthcare providers and the larger community have expressed the need for qualified nurses in Garland County and NPC is prepared to answer that call,” said NPC President Dr. John Hogan.
“NPC is, first and always, a community college. I am dedicated to that mission, the governance of NPC, its role in workforce and community development, and my belief that our work is extremely important to the future of this community. Today’s approval initiating the process for NPC to offer a BSN is an extension of that community college mission,” he said.