From technical career center expertise that serves high school students to degree programs at the associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral level, Arkansas Tech University offers options and support to students at every step of the educational ladder — with more than 130-degree programs. Across all these domains, ATU currently serves over 11,000 students.
At the heart of providing such a diverse set of opportunities is a drive to ensure access to education. Dr. Jeff Aulgur, who chairs the department of Professional Studies, explains: “Arkansas Tech continues to focus on access to education, which drives our strategic planning. Arkansas is a state where 1 out of 6 adults has a four-year undergraduate degree. That has been a challenge for this state historically. Any opportunity to help someone complete that degree is not just a benefit to the institution, but it builds a stronger state, and it builds a stronger economy.”
With a determination to ensure access and increase degree completion, ATU identified stopped out students as an area where they wanted to do more. Dr. Blake Bedsole, Vice President of Enrollment Management, explains that despite their interest in this area, they faced a challenge with finding resources to provide stopped out students with the support they needed: “We wanted to increase the access for this population, we needed to do more to be able to go after them, but we didn’t have the resources.”
Looking for a creative solution, Dr. Bedsole investigated ReUp Education, intrigued by a partnership model with no upfront costs. He describes how this approach fit their desire to impact students without needing any additional resources to get started: “The way ReUp’s partnership is structured, we get to work with this population, we get to find out what their concerns are, and we get them back into classes — and then we settle the financials on the back end. That was the main reason we were able to pursue the partnership.”
While it was important for the stopout approach to work well for the University, ultimately it had to work well for the students themselves – by addressing their specific obstacles to access. Dr. Aulgur explains how this happens: “I think sometimes once people stop out along their journey, they just get it in their minds that it’s difficult to return. Or that there are too many barriers to overcome. What this partnership has allowed us to do is to assist those individuals in seeing that the barriers in most cases are surmountable. There are ways to go around them, under them, through them, or over them. ReUp is assisting us in allowing people to see that there is an opportunity to return, and there are viable pathways to degree completion.”
“Generally for adult learners, life gets in the way and creates challenges for them. So 2020 might not have been the right time for some of these individuals, it may not have been feasible for them. There is continued opportunity to recover students, as ReUp continues to reach out.”