In August 2008, the Arkansas Task Force on Higher Education Remediation, Retention and Graduation Rates published a report titled Access to Success. This report revealed that an alarming number of high school students require developmental education upon acceptance to college.
Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board policy requires remediation for students scoring below 19 on the ACT (or the equivalent on other assessments) in any of the three areas – mathematics, English and reading. The Task Force also reported the following statistics regarding remediation:
- Of all Arkansas college and university freshmen, 52.9 percent were remediated in 2007
- 27 percent of Arkansas students who took at least one Advanced Placement course were assigned to at least one remedial course in Fall 2007
- $53 million dollars is spent annually on remediation in Arkansas
Following the release of the Access to Success Report, a collaborative group of university, public school, financial, business, and community leaders along with parents and Dawson Education Service Cooperative partners met to discuss the report and its impact on Clark County. The group focused on the concept of developing an early intervention program where university faculty and public school partners worked in tandem, and the Southwest Arkansas College Prep Academy (SWACPA) was born.
SWACPA prepares high-school students to gain admission to and succeed in college. The academy targets ninth-grade students who indicate a desire to go to college but whose scores on the ACT Aspire test fall below the benchmarks that will be required for college admission. For students meeting these criteria, SWACPA offers four years of intensive academic skills training, conducted on a college campus and led by a team of high-school teachers and college professors working in tandem. The program, which runs for two weeks each summer and one Saturday each month during the school year, focuses heavily on academic preparedness for college, with rigorous coursework in the subject areas covered by the ACT college entrance exam (math, English, reading, science) plus a study-skills course. The work is designed to help students raise their college entrance exam scores so that they can gain unconditional admission to college and avoid non-credit remedial coursework, which has been shown to be a significant impediment to eventual college graduation.
SWACPA’s Pilot Academy began April 18, 2009 with a cohort group of 40 students representing the Arkadelphia School District. The students were re-tested upon completion the summer session, and 68 percent of the students increased their ACT EXPLORE test score; 20 percent of the student’s score did not change; and 12 percent saw a decrease in their score.
Following the examination of student data and additional parent and community support, the academy was expanded to include all Clark County school districts. At that time, the name was changed from the Arkadelphia College Preparatory to the Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy with the goal of future expansion to impact additional students in southwest Arkansas.
Data continued to support the impact of early intervention on decreasing number of students and the number of content areas requiring remediation. In 2011, a satellite program under the direction of Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University began at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope to impact seven additional school districts. In 2012, National Park Community College at Hot Springs became a partner representing three additional school districts, and in 2013, the College of the Ouachitas became the third two-year college to join the partnership to decrease the need for college remediation. In January 2017, the site at UACC Hope was relocated to the University of Arkansas Cossatot campuses in De Queen and Nashville, AR.