Rich Mountain Commencement

Chancellor Steinmetz Announces New Scholarship Program for Transfer Students

Thank you, Chancellor Wilson. I hope everyone knows what a great leader you have here at Rich Mountain. Chancellor Wilson cares deeply about students and their futures. He’s a real colleague and friend; it’s an honor to be asked by him to speak here today.

So first thing’s first, congratulations to all of today’s graduates. Whether you’re earning a GED, an Associate’s Degree, or a certificate of proficiency – you’re a graduate, and therefore you are special and this is a special day for you. You’ve cleared a hurdle and now you’re transitioning into a new phase of your life. That’s always great news!

But big life transitions can sometimes be a little bit scary. One part of your life is ending, but another is beginning. Maybe you’re making big changes and saying goodbye to people and places you have grown fond of, while at the same time looking forward to new places, new people, and new opportunities. For some people this brings joy, for others this uncertainty can produce some anxiety or indecision.

Many of you are receiving the credentials to better yourself in your current career or perhaps to launch yourself on an exciting new career path. I wish you the best of luck on whatever your chosen course is. Some of you may be transferring to a four year institution or, as with our GED students, deciding whether you want to continue studying or move on to some other venture. Undoubtedly, many of you are asking yourselves a two word question: “now what?”

That’s not always easy to answer, especially as you get older and have more factors to consider, likes spouses and children and mortgages. For much of my own life, I’ve had to stop and ask myself, “now what?’ After I earned my B.S. I asked myself “now what?” I wasn’t sure. And after I earned my masters. And after I earned my PhD. And after I did a post-doc, I asked myself “now what?” Always the same question cropped up: now what? Do I stay? Do I go? Do I take this job or move across the country for a new job? What are the pros and what are the cons to making a change or staying the course?

You have to take a good hard look at where you are, where you want to be, and what you have to do get there. That’s a good thing! Without periodically looking up to ask yourself, “now what?,” you’ll find that time can slip away from you. The days may seem long but the years can disappear in a blink. So this is a valuable opportunity to ask yourself that question.

And if you are asking yourself that right now and the answer is I want to transfer to a four year institution, then I have some important information that may help you decide. However, if you are absolutely, positively certain that you never want to step foot inside another classroom again, then I give you permission to look at your phone for the next minute or so to catch up on Instagram, sports scores, or whatever the Kardashians are doing. I won’t get mad – I promise!

That said, if you think there’s a chance that you want to go further in your education to chase where your true passion may lie, then I encourage you to listen. So here’s what I have to say: We at the University of Arkansas think it’s important that people who want to earn bachelor’s degrees have the opportunity to do so. We think it’s great for the individual because education in any form is associated with higher levels of health, happiness and financial security. We know that more education is great for the state which benefits socially and economically. And those who have earned Associate’s degrees today are well positioned for your future.

At the U of A we also think it’s important to reduce obstacles to earning degrees while improving the pathways to get there. For many students, particularly ones starting out at two-year institutions, one of the bigger obstacles is frankly figuring out how to pay for the experience. College isn’t cheap, and it can be hard to take on the debt needed to earn your degree.

So it’s with great pleasure I’m announcing here today a new initiative we are starting at the U of A. We are calling it the Arkansas Transfer Achievement Scholarship. Here it is in a nutshell: if you have received an Associate’s degree from a University of Arkansas System two-year college and would like to continue with a four-year degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, you can now transfer to the U of A and pay the same tuition you are currently paying. This includes UA Batesville, Cossatot, Morrilton, Pulaski Tech, Hope-Texarkana, Phillips, and yes, Rich Mountain.

This is a significant cost savings for you. The cost of an in-district credit hour at Rich Mountain is roughly one third the cost of a credit hour at the U of A in Fayetteville – and the University of Arkansas is already below the national average in tuition costs. Forgive me if I sound like a used car salesman when I say, “Folks, you can’t beat these prices,” but I think it’s true.

We’ve been saying for some time that we want to increase the level of college attainment in Arkansas. We’ve been saying for some time that we want to increase the number of transfer students between two-year institutions and ours. And we’ve been saying for some time that we want to serve the needs of the whole state. This is one way we can demonstrate our sincerity and commitment to making that happen. There are, of course, a few rules and restrictions, and a few things yet to be worked out—that’s the fine print you’d expect from a used car salesman.

However, it’s really pretty straightforward. So if finances have been one of the factors in your decision of whether or not you want to attend a four-year institution, hopefully this will provide you with another incentive and pathway to further your education. For everyone asking themselves “now what?”, I strongly encourage you consider coming to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to complete your bachelor’s degree.

This could be a life changing opportunity for you, and I hope you can take advantage. In fact, I can think of few things that would please me more than to shake your hand as you walk across the stage in Bud Walton Arena with a U of A degree in your hand.