Conway has long been noted as a place that offers excellent educational opportunities. Since its incorporation in the 1870s, the city has made education a priority, investing time and money to pursue academic excellence. Its top-notch public and private K-12 school districts have been touted as one of the reasons many newcomers decide to call the city home.
Conway is the proud home of three institutions of higher learning, earning it the distinction as the "City of Colleges." Hendrix College, the University of Central Arkansas, and Central Baptist College consistently produce graduates who stay in the area and enter the workforce. This is part of the reason Conway surpasses the state and national averages when it comes to the educational attainment rate, with more than one-third of its adults holding a bachelor’s degree.
With so much emphasis on education, it comes as no surprise that Conway is also home to Arkansas Educational Television Network. AETN operates a statewide television network designed to provide lifelong learning opportunities. It is one of 175 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. The station broadcasts programs for use in Arkansas classrooms as well as programs for the general audience.
As you can see, education is the heart of Conway. The successes of its preschool programs, public and private school systems, and colleges and university make it easy to see why Conway has earned a reputation for excellent educational opportunities.
With more than 9,200 students, Conway Public School District is the eighth largest in Arkansas. The district has 15 schools, including one high school on two campuses, two middle schools, two intermediate schools, nine elementary. Conway Public Schools anticipates big changes in the year 2012, including the construction of a new elementary school and the reconstruction of Conway High School-West. A millage increase approved by Conway voters in September 2010 is financing both projects. "Student growth and general population growth in Conway have created a need for a new high school building and a new elementary school," said Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent of Conway Public Schools. "We're pleased that Conway voters made this possible." Superintendent Murry said that the reconstruction of Conway High School-West could be considered "the most significant project the district has undertaken," as the current building was built in 1968 as the result of a federal grant. The $40 million reconstruction project will be completed in two phases. The first phase involves the construction of a three-story classroom building and is projected to be completed in July 2012. Phase two includes the construction of a new cafeteria, the demolition of the current building, and the addition of walkways to connect all buildings on the campus. This phase has a scheduled completion date of July 2013. Other recent district accomplishments and upcoming projects include the following: In the Conway High School Class of 2011, 38 students graduated with highest honors; 13 students were National Merit Scholars; 29 students were recognized during Conway Academic Signing Day for receiving the top scholarship offered at the college they will attend; and four graduates enrolled in West Point or Annapolis Service Academies. The ACT composite score for the class is 22.6, which is higher than the national ACT composite score of 21 . Graduating seniors received more than $10 million in scholarships. Conway High School won three state championships during the 2010-2011 school year in wrestling, softball and baseball. Kathy Powers, a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School, was named the 2011 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. More than half of the teaching staff at Conway Public Schools have at least a master's degree. The district boasts 35 National Board certified teachers who have, on their own time, completed the rigorous process necessary to qualify for certification by this independent organization.
The Conway Adult Education Center is part of Conway Public Schools and offers GED preparation and classes in math, reading and English as a Second Language. The center also offers all types of computer training, including courses in the Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint; Internet and email use; and digital photography and photo editing. These courses are offered every eight weeks, both during the day and in the evening. Industry specific training is also offered on-site at the client's facility. In 2012, Conway Public Schools will consolidate the 11 preschool classrooms in the Conway School District into a central location that will also house the adult education program. In placing these programs near each other, parents could easily drop their children off for preschool and then attend classes that could prepare them for the job market.
For more than 130 years, St. Joseph School has provided quality, Catholic education to students in Conway. The ultimate goal of the school is to integrate faith and learning in order to develop the whole person: soul, mind and body. St. Joseph School offers core a a diverse athletic program, extracurricular activities, and modern computer and science labs to 500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Students receive specialized instruction in music, physical education, library skills and art. Primary and elementary students score in the proficient range on the Stanford Achievement Test, while ACT scores are well above state and national averages. More than 90 percent of St. Joseph's graduates pursue higher education at universities nationwide and through specialized training institutes in various industries. The school is accredited by Arkansas Non-Public School Accrediting Association and is a member of the National Catholic Education Association.
Conway Christian School provides a comprehensive education for 600 students in preschool through 12th grade. Representing more than 65 churches, the school strives to provide an environment where students can grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Conway Christian High School students consistently score high on college entrance exams, and the school boasts multiple National Merit Scholarship finalists. The school's athletic and activity programs are part of the Arkansas Activities Association, and all of its sports teams have seen post-season play. Conway Christian School is accredited by Arkansas Non Public School Accrediting Association and Christian Schools International, and its preschool is state licensed. The 2011- 2012 school year marks the 20th anniversary of the school's existence.
University of Central Arkansas, with an enrollment of more than 11,000 students, is the fourth largest university by enrollment in Arkansas. Academic offerings include 80 undergraduate, 39 graduate and five doctoral degree programs. Faculty and students are involved in the larger community in a variety of ways beneficial to both Conway and the university. The U.S. News & World Report ranks UCA 17th out of 69 public universities in the category of "Top Public Schools" among regional universities in the South. In addition, the Kaplan/Newsweek guide listed UCA among the top 25 "Most Desirable Large Schools" and the top 25 "Most Desirable Rural Schools." The university's College of Business is named among "The Best Business Schools" in The Princeton Review. In 1982, UCA established one of the first Honors Colleges in the nation, a community of learners practicing the arts of inquiry, conversation, collaboration and communication. Through interdisciplinary research and teaching, Honors College students seek to test themselves and their ideas in the public square and to embrace as partners others involved in the same quest. The university's Residential Colleges encompass both the social and academic aspects of a student's first year in college. These programs-targeted at freshmen-make additional resources available to help students with that often difficult transition to university life. The new STEM Residential College, the first in the state, provides a living/learning environment that fosters the academic success of students pursuing studies in science, technology, computer science, pre-engineering and mathematics. The Oxford American-"The Southern Magazine of Good Writing"-is published at UCA. Founded in 1992 with an editorial mission to "explore the American South," it has published original writing by many of this country's best writers.
Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. With nearly 1,500 students from more than 40 states and many foreign countries, Hendrix is nationally recognized for its innovative curriculum and opportunities for unique engaged learning experiences through Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning. Hendrix recently completed a $100 million comprehensive campaign-the largest fundraising effort in the College's 135-year history. Through the campaign, Hendrix significantly increased student financial assistance; endowed academic, co-curricular and student life programs that have become national models in American higher education; and completed state-of-the-art campus facilities, including a new Wellness and Athletics Center and Student Life and Technology Center. In addition to the impact of its faculty, staff and students on the local economy, Hendrix has developed land adjacent to campus into The Village at Hendrix, a New Urbanist neighborhood featuring mixed-use (residential and commercial) spaces. The Village also provides public green space for community events and new dining, retail and employment opportunities. Hendrix Creek Preserve, a beautiful and one-of-a- kind ecological, educational and recreational public space, is currently under development at The Village. All artistic, athletic and cultural entertainment events at Hendrix are open to the public at no cost on the beautiful campus in the center of Conway. The college is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
Central Baptist College is a four-year, private, liberal arts college owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. CBC set a record enrollment in the fall 2010 with 742 students. The College offers 24 bachelor's degrees, 20 minors and Associate of Arts degrees in several emphasis. CBC recently opened a new Science Center to support three new bachelor's degrees in biology, biotechnology and health sciences. The center includes two biology labs; two chemistry labs; a research lab; faculty offices; chemical storage; and a large, state-of-the-art classroom. The institution is also pursuing accreditation from NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) and will soon be offering a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. PACE, a non-traditional program, is an accelerated associate and bachelor's degree program that is designed for adults with busy lifestyles. The PACE program allows students to complete a degree by taking five-week classes-one night per week, one class at a time. In 2010, CBC launched "Vision 2020: A Miracle in the Making," a 10-year campus master plan. The goal of this plan is to complete 10 major construction projects over the next 10 years to accommodate a projected enrollment of 2,020 students. A three-story, 36,000-square-foot academic building is the first major project in this plan, and construction began in August 2011 . The new academic building is intended to be the signature building for the campus and will set the standard for all future development.