Community college breaks ground on science labs to offer four year degree programs

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A Hot Springs community college is extending some of its programs to four years. National Park College is partnering with Southern Arkansas University to offer several bachelor programs. They just broke ground on two science labs that will allow NPC to offer upper level courses like organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics.

NPC President Dr. John Hogan says this expansion will bridge the gap for those students who struggle to attend a four year university. One of those students is Holly Blankenship. She has been juggling books and babies for quite a while now.

“So you’re running to class pregnant with your bags,” Blankenship said.

She lives in Hot Springs and just a few years ago she decided to go back to school after getting out of the air force. She also had three kids and a baby on the way.

“So I’m literally dropping these kids off at school, dropping her off at the baby sitter and just rushing to class,” Blankenship said.

The hardest part of it all was class was an hour away.

“I missed so much,” Blankenship said.

Once her fourth child was born, she decided to ditch the four year university for a community college right in her back yard.

“Here it’s like you have a family, you have a life and this is your life,” Blankenship said.

She chose National Park College. It was a temporary solution for her ultimate goal – a bachelor’s degree.

“That was my plan. That was my full proof go to Henderson plan,” Blankenship said.

When she started thinking about commuting again, she said she wished there was another option.

“If I’m 45 minutes away, how do I get to a kid who’s sick or forgot their inhaler or fell in the mud, which happens all the time. I don’t know why but it does,” Blankenship said.

At that time, NPC announced a partnership with Southern Arkansas University to offer select bachelor programs for their students.

“It’s huge for them,” Dr. Hogan said.

Hogan says this is a game changer for the entire campus and city of Hot Springs.

“It’s generational in terms of it’s impact on their ability to produce wealth for their families, makes it more likely for their kids to go to college and succeed,” Hogan said.

Now they are breaking ground on new science labs that will house those upper level courses

“We get to physically see buildings going up, we get to see labs and lab equipment,” Blankenship said.

She says this will make it easier for her to be a mom.

“We’re just like really pumped to get it done. We’re even asking for classes early,” Blankenship said.

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