The Northwest Arkansas Council announced a program Tuesday aimed at helping five area colleges graduate more students.
The program seeks to assist and encourage adults interested in completing their college education, according to a news release Tuesday from the council.
"It's about giving them a sense that they can become more than what they are and they can find themselves in the disciplines that they learn," said Charles Robinson, University of Arkansas vice provost for diversity.
The five partners in the program are the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-Northwest, John Brown University, NorthWest Arkansas Community College and Northwest Technical Institute.
The council believes assisting more adults in obtaining college degrees will help the area develop economically, according to the news release.
Rogers resident Phil Jones, 55, took college classes after graduating from high school but said he didn't feel prepared and dropped out after a couple of semesters.
“When I was 38 years old I went back to college. I started going to school at nights and on weekends,” Jones said. “It took me seven and a half years to finish college. I finished when I was 44 years of age.”
Four years ago, after completing a bachelor's degree at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Jones went back to school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to pursue a master’s of business administration degree, which he completed in 2010.
“This was not about me, but about my family, so I swallowed my pride and just focused on me and doing the best that I could in school, not cutting corners, doing my best every day in class and really got over being older than my classmates and my professors,” Jones said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25 percent of Northwest Arkansas residents age 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or better, which is 2.7 percent lower than the national average.
The Graduate NWA program aims not only to improve that statistic but alsoto give Northwest Arkansas residents a chance at a better job and a bigger paycheck.
"I've given myself more options as far as my career goes,” Jones said. “Financially, I have almost doubled my salary from what it was when I finished ... my undergraduate degree. The benefits are real. They are tangible."
For more information on the program, visit GraduateNWA.com.