Spotlight on Greene, Hale, Marengo & Sumter: Higher Education

Two higher education institutions offer academic and career programs in these four counties

The Campora Athletic Complex at the University of West Alabama.

University of West Alabama

The University of West Alabama, in Livingston in Sumter County, is a four-year public liberal arts college that has a far-reaching impact on the region. And it continues to grow. In fall 2023, the school recorded its highest enrollment ever, with total enrollment of 6,195. That number represents both on-campus and online enrollment, ranging from freshman undergraduate through doctoral degree students.

UWA has dozens of degree programs and certification programs and keeps its attention on industry needs so that it can help facilitate a trained workforce, as well as dual enrollment and partnerships with other colleges and K-12 education. It also plays a major role in economic and community development.

New and expanding programs include UWA’s Health Sciences Comprehensive Respiratory Therapy Track, which is expected to admit its first students in fall 2024. While studying on campus, students also will gain experience at clinical sites in west Alabama and Mississippi.

UWA’s new program, UWA-TEACH, specifically addresses the university’s commitment to rural education with a specially designed curriculum. STEM majors at UWA who want to teach can opt for a streamlined approach by choosing their major and earning teacher certification.

UWA entered a new partnership agreement with the United States Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) that will encourage and enhance study in STEM fields. The partnership creates options for summer internships and allows students and faculty to use the center’s equipment.

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UWA’s athletic training program is the first public university in the state to receive approval for a bachelor’s and master’s program, and it boasts a 100% first time pass rate for the first two master of athletic training cohorts.

The school’s Integrated Marketing Communications program added a new track of study — multidimensional interior design. It gives students a general knowledge of interior design, history, eras and periods, space planning, ADA accessibility, 2D and 3D computer modeling and more. In the final course of the track, students can work with actual residential and commercial clients.

UWA also continues to add new facilities. It completed construction on a new track and soccer facility. UWA also opened the Campora Athletic Complex, featuring the Coats Family Athletics Academic Center, which will be used as an academic resource and class space during the week. And the school recently broke ground on a new outdoor amphitheater.

UWA also is home to the University Charter School, started in Lyon Hall and now growing into its own campus. The school offers classes from pre-K through 12th grade.

The welding room at the West Alabama Training Center, a facility of Wallace Community College Selma.

Wallace Community College Selma – Demopolis Campus

Since July 2019, when Wallace Community College Selma expanded its service area into Marengo, Sumter, Greene and Hale counties and occupied the 16,000-square-foot Demopolis Higher Education Center, offerings and facilities have grown.

Since expanding the service area, the college has increased enrollment and is presently serving more than 500 students. WCCS has articulation agreements with numerous four-year institutions in the region, including the University of West Alabama, to help students transition to four-year degrees.

The Demopolis campus offers academic, career/technical and dual enrollment classes to students from 10 local high schools, and short-term programs such as CDL training, welding, practical care technician, surgical technician and heavy equipment certification classes where students can earn certificates in high demand areas.

In addition to in-person, online and hybrid courses, WCCS offers adult education classes to prepare students for the GED test. Students also can become better prepared to enter the workforce through the Alabama Career Essentials course designed by the Alabama Community College System.

In August 2023, the campus grew with the West Alabama Regional Training Center, located in a former armory. Programs offered at the center include modern manufacturing, HVAC, welding and commercial truck driving. The center also provides facilities for short-term training for local industries.

The Demopolis campus has obtained full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which means students can complete their associate course work in Demopolis.

This article appears in the June 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

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