UACCM awarded $2 million grant to grow nursing program

The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM) has been awarded a grant of $2,024,546 from the state Commerce Department’s Office of Skills Development as part of the Arkansas Linking Industry to Growing Nurses (ALIGN) program. The grant was announced during a Monday press conference by Gov. Sarah Sanders, Ark. Dept. of Commerce Secretary Hugh McDonald, and Director of Ark. Workforce Connection Cody Waits.

UACCM Vice Chancellor for Academics Richard Counts (from left); UACCM Chancellor Lisa Willenberg; President of Baptist Health Medical Center Conway April Bennett; and UACCM Dean of Nursing and Allied Health Darrell Moore.

UACCM is one of 19 two-year and four-year Arkansas schools selected for the ALIGN grant and will utilize the funds in a variety of ways to expand nursing programs at UACCM, including equipment and furnishings for the college’s new Nursing and Science Center. 

“The proceeds of the grant will provide for state-of-the-art simulation and healthcare equipment, faculty recruitment and retention funds, scholarships, and ultimately an increased capacity of approximately 100 additional nursing completers annually,” said UACCM Chancellor Lisa Willenberg. 

Public and private post-secondary educational institutions in Arkansas providing LPN, RN, and BSN degrees were eligible to apply for the ALIGN grant funding. All applicants were required to provide a healthcare partner contribution with a two-to-one match by the state for each dollar contributed by the healthcare partner. 

Baptist Health Medical Center—Conway, Conway Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Regional Health System, Ozark Health, Chamber’s Memorial Hospital, Johnson County Regional Medical Center, and Superior Health and Rehab all supported and assisted UACCM in its application for the ALIGN grant. 

“When this grant opportunity presented itself, coordination with our key clinical partners who have made significant contributions to UACCM nursing students via scholarships, clinical opportunities, and healthcare equipment made our application possible,” said Willenberg. 

She continued, “Each of those partners quickly assisted with application data as well as support letters. This grant is a great reminder of the importance of regional partnerships.”

The Nursing and Science Center, which will have its groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 24, will be a two-story, 36,000-square-foot facility featuring seven science labs and classrooms, ten nursing labs and classrooms, and two student lounges. 

The ALIGN Program is designed to upskill nursing professionals, expand nursing apprenticeship programs, and increase nurse educator recruitment and retention. Funding for the ALIGN grant is through the American Rescue Plan of 2021.

The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton is a two-year public college that offers a comprehensive curriculum of university-transfer and career-specific training programs as well as adult education, workforce training, and community outreach programs. The college’s commitment to excellence in learning and personal enrichment allows students to gain a strong academic foundation in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree or earn the credentials needed for high-wage, high-demand careers.