Spotlight on Baldwin County: Higher Education

Community colleges and branch campuses of universities offer a number of opportunities for students to earn certificates or degrees

Auburn University Gulf Shores Complex.

Auburn University Educational Complex, Gulf Shores

The Auburn University Educational Complex, which opened in 2018 in Gulf Shores, is a 24,000-square-foot facility that provides veterinary care, aviation instruction, research partnership opportunities and Alabama Extension support for the region.

The centerpiece is the Auburn Veterinary Specialists referral center, a satellite of Auburn’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The Gulf Shores facility currently offers dermatology, internal medicine and surgical services, with plans to add emergency services. Fourth-year Auburn veterinary students participate in elective, two-week clinical rotations at the center.

Another key feature is Auburn’s School of Aviation that delivers aviation learning opportunities for K-12 students and hosts unmanned aircraft systems courses. Students and professionals prepare for entering industries such as mapping and surveying, precision agriculture and public safety.

The complex also serves as a base of operations for regional economic development activity through administrative space for Auburn’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Meeting and office spaces are available for collaboration among business and industry leaders and Auburn experts.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System currently has an urban forestry specialist and a home grounds regional extension agent at the complex to support Baldwin County’s nursery industry and homeowners. Plans are underway to develop a landscape demonstration and training garden to support Alabama Extension’s industry and homeowner programs.

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Coastal Alabama Community College

Coastal Alabama Community College is a major presence here and in southwest Alabama with campuses and locations peppered across nine counties. Coastal Alabama provides an array of educational opportunities to its communities from academic and career tech programs to adult education services.

A major development for the college is its revamped workforce development office, making it better suited than ever before to partner with local businesses and industries for apprenticeship and internship opportunities.

Coastal Alabama has recently added several programs, along with partnerships with local industry. In Baldwin County specifically, those include a phlebotomy certification course, a marine industry technology program, a food and beverage credential course (partnered with Panini Pete’s and the Gateway Initiative), the state’s first accounting tech apprenticeship (partnered with Horne LLP), and a scholarship program made possible with grants from The Schmieding Foundation for students interested in the nursing assistant program.

Coastal Alabama also has expanded its partnership with Collins Aerospace, one of the county’s largest employers for decades, to identify the next generation of talent, offering pre-employment training to equip members of the local community with a wide variety of the skills needed to successfully pursue jobs within the company.

Industry and the school have also partnered to remove obstacles to adult learners, and to customize skill programs for industry-specific needs. Coastal Alabama also offers ESL to help non-native English speakers refine their language skills to participate in the workforce.

On the Bay Minette campus, the new Coastal Alabama Grill opened with lounge-style seating, high-rise bars and a covered patio for outdoor seating, redefining the college cafeteria experience.

University of South Alabama – Baldwin campus.

University of South Alabama – Baldwin County

At the University of South Alabama Baldwin campus, students get the resources of a large university with the benefits of a small campus in a picturesque locale. The campus offers a learning environment with comfortable class sizes, hands-on learning and frequent interaction with professors.

Situated in Fairhope, the campus offers college-level courses, educational outreach, continuing and professional educational opportunities and degree-completion programs in the state’s fastest growing county. The Baldwin County campus serves more than 1,500 students annually, providing bachelor’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies, communications and public relations, criminal justice and elementary education, as well as an accelerated nursing degree program. The campus also offers courses that can be transferred to other degree programs.

In addition, there are non-credit courses in foreign language and personal enrichment, as well as continuing education and professional training opportunities. The Baldwin County campus founded and co-sponsors Leadership Baldwin County and partners with local and state organizations to offer conferences and non-credit programming.

The University of South Alabama also has a partnership in Baldwin County with Coastal Alabama Community College, as well as with other community colleges along the Gulf Coast, through Pathway USA, which streamlines the transfer process for community college students seeking a four-year degree.

Mayes Hall at Columbia Southern University.

Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University, in Orange Beach, is the only Alabama university dedicated to completely online instruction. The college serves adult learners and military students, with several undergraduate and graduate degree programs, continuing education and certificate programs. The college has more than 25,000 current students and more than 1,050 employees.

In 2021, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges board of trustees granted candidacy status to CSU, a key milestone toward achieving institutional accreditation with the commission.

CSU recently added an associate of science degree program in military studies, as 40% of CSU’s students are military.

Also, the university has an accelerated path option that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in information systems or cyber security in one year, because of the high demand expected for such jobs.

The school won 2020 Exemplary Course honors from Blackboard Inc. and a Blackboard Catalyst Award for community engagement for its life and career enrichment courses.


United States Sports Academy

Based in Daphne, the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited sport university offering instruction, research and service programs for those interested in sports professions.

For more than 50 years, the academy has served as the only free-standing sports university in America, producing more than 5,000 sport-specific degree holders.

The academy’s Center for Professional Studies and Continuing Education offers non-degree courses and programs to meet professional development needs.

The academy also houses the American Sport Art Museum and Archives.

This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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