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  • Writer's pictureThe Lions' Chronicle

UAFS Responds to Vista Closure

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Vista College, a trade school in Fort Smith, unexpectedly closed their doors on Friday, October 8, 2021. According to several sources, students were aware that Vista would be closing in the near future, but not until the students that were currently enrolled finished their programs. The closing was a shock and a disappointment to all of Vista’s students. When Vista closed their doors, 354 students were enrolled with an additional 69 students enrolled in their online programs. Several students were just weeks away from completing their degree programs.

The University of Arkansas- Fort Smith held an information session on Wednesday, October 20 at 3 pm to explain how they plan to help the displaced students at Vista college and to answer any questions that people may have. The information session consisted of a panel of ten UAFS faculty members. These members included Andy Johnson, Tiffany Bray, Heather Chance, Aviance Taylor, Tina Root, Latisha Settlage, Kendall Ross, Tim Corneliage, and Mark Allen.

Andy Johnson, Director of Admissions at the University of Arkansas- Fort Smith opened the panel by talking about transfer credits from Vista. UAFS is not able to accept credit transfers from Vista College, but UAFS does have alternative ways of awarding credits to students. These include faculty evaluation of course materials, CLEP testing, and the Adult Degree Completion Program. These ways allow for universities and colleges to test student’s knowledge so that they do not have to completely start their degree over.

Tiffany Bray of UAFS Financial Aid informed students on how financial aid would be taken care of in this situation. Students may be eligible for complete loan forgiveness if/when Vista is listed as a closed institution. While a definite answer has yet to be determined on financial aid eligibility, Bray advised that the best place to start would be on the UAFS website. She also advised students to be sure to complete the 2021-2022 FAFSA in order to be eligible for grants and/or loans.

Heather Chance of the UAFS Veterans Administration talked about how students who had Veteran Benefits would be able to still get those when they get their new placement. The VA Benefits website says that students who use VA benefits could potentially be reimbursed due to a school closure. If a student thinks that they might qualify for reimbursement, then they need to submit an application for restoration directly to the Veterans Administration.

Aviance Taylor informed students that the Gordon Kelley Academic Success Center at UAFS offers alternative credit testing. These tests are a way for students to prove that they have college-level knowledge and can earn college credit. These are fee-based exams with the CLEP being the most common form of testing. The CLEP offers testing over 36 subjects. Colleges set their own CLEP credit policies, so not every university is going to accept credits. The Academic Success Center also offers Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) for students to prove their knowledge.

Dr. Tina Root, Director of Adult Degree Completion Programs, informed students of the Adult Degree Completion Program that is available at UAFS. This program allows nontraditional students to earn a degree while also working full time. In order to qualify to be in this program, a student must be 25 years of age or older, have at least 5 years of work experience, and have 30 or more hours of transferable credit hours.

Dr. Latisha Settlage of the College of Business talked about the different types of certifications that UAFS offers. UAFS offers eight different certifications in areas such as automotive specialist, computer graphic technology, welding, etc.

Business and Professional Development Interim Director, Kendall Ross, informed students of the Future Fit program. This program is designed to train someone in the role of production operator/assembler. It is a short program that consists of three weeks of computer training. During the fourth week, students will be on site with an instructor. This program prepares graduates to work in advanced manufacturing. Jobs start hiring at $18 an hour.

Mark Allen from UAFS Guidance center closed out the session with a few words about the mental health services that are offered at UAFS. The Guidance Center is a non-profit healthcare provider that serves anyone regardless of their financial situation. They accept all forms of insurance and payment and offer discounts based on income for essential services. They have a twenty-four-hour hotline that they encourage students to use when need be. Students who have been affected by Vista’s closing are also encouraged to take advantage of the Guidance Center if they are in distress about their situation.

Although UAFS doesn’t not have all of the answers to the questions that people have about Vista, they are certainly doing their best to provide ways for Vista students to continue pursuing their degree. This information session was a step in the right direction.


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