O. Jerome Green
President of Shorter College
O. Jerome Green knows what a difference three years can make. When he started as president of North Little Rock’s Shorter College in 2012, only two students were enrolled. The private two-year liberal arts college had lost its accreditation, its reputation plagued by previous problems with mishandled funds. But Green saw potential.
Now, the campus boasts nearly 500 students and Green smiles as he talks of plans to launch a capital campaign in 2016 in hopes of replacing fading buildings with contemporary dorms and classrooms.
An Alabama native with a background in university public relations, Green says his work with Shorter College has helped him achieve what he believes is God’s purpose for his life: to help people better their lives through access to education.
“To me, education is the single best indicator of whether a person will do well economically, whether they will have a normal family life, whether they will have good health, whether they will be incarcerated,” Green says.
Shortly after his appointment, Green began identifying how the college could fit into Arkansas’ higher-education market. And when he started looking at underserved populations–prospective students that weren’t being served by any other institution–Green found potential in an unlikely place: juvenile delinquents.
This past June, Shorter College began a partnership with the Arkansas Division of Youth Services, sending professors from Shorter’s campus to the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander. While at the facility, youths are now able to participate in daily English, speech, and math classes and earn credit transferable to many colleges across Arkansas and beyond, turning lockup into an opportunity to move forward with their education. The program is one of the first of its kind in the U.S., and was made possible by a 2014 change in federal law that allows young offenders to be eligible for Title IV financial aid.
“We know there are some precious stones that need to be unearthed, cultivated, and cleaned up,” Green says. “The students have a chance to change their identity from who they thought they were to being among the ranks of Arkansas’ college students.”
Written by EVZ. Originally published in Arkansas Life magazine.