Spotlight on Etowah, St. Clair, & Blount Counties: Higher Education

Gadsden State Community College serves 4,000 students.

Gadsden State Community College prepares a diverse student population with quality education, innovative workforce development and community engagement. Gadsden State has an enrollment of 4,000 students who can select from academic, career technical, health science, adult education and skills training options. 

Gadsden State serves Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne, Etowah and St. Clair counties on five campuses — the Wallace Drive Campus, Valley Street Campus, East Broad Campus, Ayers Campus and Gadsden State Cherokee — plus a site at the St. Clair County Correctional Facility. Gadsden State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Gadsden is the only community college in Alabama to offer civil engineering and court reporting. It is also the only college in Alabama that offers a comprehensive 

DMS program that covers abdomen, OB/GYN and vascular in one associate degree program. 

Students at Gadsden State with Swoop.

Three of Gadsden State’s campuses saw building construction and renovation in 2020.

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Area students can enroll for academic dual credit in college courses through the ACE Institute while they are still attending high school. Career tech dual enrollment is also available for students interested in a technical career. Scholarships are available for qualified students in select career tech courses.

More than half of the students are completing general education courses for transfer to a four-year institution. Technical programs often take two or fewer years to complete.

Gadsden State has a robust Student Support Services department, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department

of Education. In 2020, the programs were awarded an increase in funding to $982,120 per year over a five-year period for a total award of more than $4.9 million. That’s an increase of $785,445 from the 2015 award.

University of Alabama Gadsden Center is a division of The University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies. The UA Gadsden Center offers advanced degree options in various programs within the field of education. The personalized approaches embraced by faculty creates a unique learning environment for students, and the blend of face-to-face and online courses lets students design schedules that suit their lifestyle. 

During the summer, classes are offered during the day (Monday-Thursday) and via evening and weekend formats to accommodate those who have more flexible schedules. In the fall and spring, classes are offered in the evenings and on weekends.

In addition to its academic programs, the UA Gadsden Center also offers an array of conferences, specialized training and events. 

Wallace State Community College has an NC3 certified welding program.

Jefferson State Community College operates a campus in Pell City, one of four serving more than 13,000 students each year in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Chilton counties. Jefferson State is the largest community college in Alabama.

Approximately 60% of Jefferson State students transfer to a four-year university. 

Jefferson State also offers 33 career and technical programs and numerous certificate programs from culinary arts to computers, nursing and manufacturing. About one-fourth of Jefferson State’s students are enrolled in health programs. With more than 250 nursing graduates each year, Jefferson State is the leading producer of nursing graduates with associate degrees in Alabama. 

The college also delivers non-credit workforce training in career programs that can be completed in as little as six weeks. These “fast-track” programs prepare students for immediate employment for in-demand jobs such as welding, IT, web development, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, pharmacy technician and more.

Jefferson State is a leader in dual enrollment programs with many area high schools. Each year, more than 2,200 high school students earn college credit while still in high school with Jefferson State. 

Recently, the St. Clair-Pell City campus joined efforts to provide an IT Help Desk that offers the technical support needed for single mothers working to obtain technology skills. Ten women will receive scholarships to cover fees, computer learning access codes and a transportation stipend. Program partners include The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, St. Clair County Head Start and Pell City First United Methodist Church. 

Jefferson State Community College’s Pell City campus.

Wallace State Community College Oneonta Campus’s newest flagship facility, which opened in 2019, marked the school’s fourth expansion in Oneonta

in three years due to increasing demand. The college first established a campus presence in Oneonta in 2016 in a building that has since been converted to its technical training center. The new facility, constructed in downtown Oneonta, houses academic programs, including classrooms, computer labs, science labs and administrative offices.

Wallace State’s Oneonta campus added a building in 2019.

Programs and classes available in Oneonta now include NC3 certified welding, machining and mechatronics programs, engineering technology, general studies, liberal arts, Apple Swift coding, EMS, business, graphic arts, computer science, psychology and biology.

Many programs now offer apprenticeships. For example, the Oneonta machining program enjoys a special apprenticeship partnership with Kamtek in Birmingham, and the mechatronics program is a member of the FAME apprenticeship partnership.
Special scholarships for Wallace State Oneonta students are available for women in welding and other career tech programs through a grant to the college from the Greater Birmingham Women’s Fund.

Workforce training includes commercial truck driving, certified technician training and programs customized for business and industry. Wallace State has a growing adult education program serving Oneonta and Blount County, with free ESL and GED classes offered on the Oneonta campus and at sites across Wallace State’s service area. 

An inside look at the new building in Oneonta.

The college has expanded dual enrollment opportunities for area high schools with academic, as well as health science and applied technical classes. 

With graduation/completion rates among the highest in the nation, Wallace State has been recognized nationally and regionally for its efforts to help students succeed. 

Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics addresses the crowd at the opening.

Wallace State also announced the 2019 naming of the Eldridge Bynum Resource Center, located inside the new Wallace State-Oneonta facility. Bynum (1933-2015) was an advocate for education in Blount County and for Wallace State. He wrote numerous grants over the years, securing millions of dollars in funding for Blount County, the city of Oneonta and for student scholarships.

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