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NWA Universities Celebrate Big Donations

Despite financial turmoil plaguing the country, millions of dollars are heading to two universities in Northwest Arkansas.
Despite financial turmoil plaguing the country, millions of dollars are heading to two universities in Northwest Arkansas.

Starting with John Brown University, the faith-based school received 6 million dollars by an anonymous donor to begin a college of nursing.

"We've been looking at nursing for over 20 years, but we weren't either in the financial or the program space to do it until just recently," JBU President Dr. Charles Pollard said.

The school recently received prerequisite approval for a nursing school and this generous donation will pay for 60 percent of the entire program. The University will still work to raise another 4 million dollars.

"There's a critical need in Arkansas for BSN trained nurses and we will contribute with other programs in the state to meet that need," Pollard said. 

"As a faith-based school, I think we'll provide nurses that both will take care of the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of  their patients."

The University of Arkansas received the largest federal research-based grant the school has ever been awarded  of 32-million dollars. The federal grant named PROMISE, stands for Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income. Arkansas is one of five states receiving the funding.

"Though this amount sounds large, the potential by getting adolescents with disabilities involved competitively in the workforce, makes 32 million sound like  relatively small number," Associate Professor and  Program Coordinator for the Rehabilitation Education and Research Program at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Brent Thomas Williams said.

Dr. Thomas Williams will use the funds to help improve education and employment opportunities for teens with disabilities who currently receive social security benefits.

"So this has the potential from just a financial standpoint of having a major impact on expenditures made by the social security administration," he said.

While the grant is gratifying, Williams said it's the impact that's most important.

"If this research can find a way to facilitate and get a large number of adolescents with disabilities into the work force, you've done an enormous thing in increasing their ability to participate in the culture as a whole. That's the part that excites me."

JBU is recruiting pre-nursing students and will begin construction on the new 20,000 square-foot nursing facility in 2015 with the program up and running by fall 2016.

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