BY MELANIE BUCK –
Rich Mountain Community College has announced the Board of Trustees’ decision concerning the much-anticipated merger with the University of Arkansas that has been in development for months. On Wednesday, April 27, 2016, President Dr. Phillip Wilson met with the RMCC Board of Trustees to present a resolution requesting a formal partnership between RMCC and the UA System. The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the resolution to join the University of Arkansas System effective July 1, 2016. The RMCC Board of Trustees request for merger will be presented to the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees in their May 2016 Board meeting for final consideration. Upon approval, Rich Mountain Community College would become the sixth community college in the University of Arkansas System.
“This day marks a new and historic day for Rich Mountain Community College,” said Wilson. The decision to request the merger comes after months of discussion with Dr. Don Bobbitt, U of A System President, RMCC Board of Trustees, staff, faculty, and community members. President Wilson also stated, “I commend the RMCC Board of Trustees for their leadership and vision that led to this important decision. From discussions with all involved, the decision to join the University of Arkansas System is in the best interest of all our stakeholders. This is truly a day that we can all be proud of.” Board of Trustees Chair Sue Cavner shared, “This is an exciting day for Rich Mountain Community College. The decision to move forward with the request to become a member of the University of Arkansas System will provide greater opportunities for those we serve. The overwhelming support received from students, staff and community members confirmed the Board’s decision for the continued success for our community college.”
Wilson commended RMCC Board of Trustees as visionaries that serve with the best interest of RMCC and the community at heart. “I would put the RMCC Board of Trustees against any board or commission in the State. They are wonderful people doing great things for RMCC and their community. They have a keen understanding of the special challenges that exist in Arkansas community colleges and the uniqueness of being the smallest in the state.” Under the UA umbrella, Wilson would report to Dr. Bobbitt, who reports to the UA Board of Trustees. The local Board of Trustees will become a Board of Visitors who will be “his eyes and ears for all things locally.”
Students are at the core of all decisions made and how such an alignment would impact them is at the forefront of Wilson’s and the Trustees’ minds. “RMCC will not lose its identity. We will still be our community’s community college. Practically, every decision will still be locally based.” Wilson continued by saying that scholarships and the Foundation will stay in local control. “Tuition rates will always have the Board of Visitors’ and my fingerprint. RMCC will continue to be an outstanding low-cost tuition college.” He went on to say, “Our students will now have a diploma that will have the words ‘University of Arkansas’ on it. Those words are special and carry weight. We also believe that this gives us an opportunity to develop a University Center on our campus for partnership with the UA System Universities, like UA Fort Smith and UA Fayetteville.”
In 1973, the College began as Rich Mountain Vocational-Technical School serving Polk, Scott, and Montgomery counties under the Arkansas Department of Vocational Education. In the late 1970s, community leaders alongside Representative Ode Maddox began discussions about the creation of a community college. Representative Ode Maddox introduced legislation, which ultimately became Act 16 of the 1983 General Assembly that established Rich Mountain Community College on July 1, 1983.
“We are the smallest community college in the state and that will not change,” Wilson added, “This is a good relationship to have.”