Spotlight on Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb & Cherokee: Higher Education

These four counties are served by three community colleges.

Northeast Alabama Community College serves 2,884 students on two campuses.

Northeast Alabama Community College

Northeast Alabama Community College is a major provider of higher education, career and technical programs, degrees and certificates. The main campus is in Rainsville in DeKalb County, with salon and spa management and truck driving programs in Scottsboro in Jackson County. The college has 2,884 students and 308 employees.

NACC has been ranked as the safest college or university in Alabama and among the safest in the nation, according to, a website that gathers crime statistics.

Recently, NACC’s nursing department and the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s College of Nursing announced a new partnership to offer a dual nursing degree program, set to start in fall 2022. Students who complete the program will be awarded both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

NACC also is the first community college in Alabama to provide free laptop vending machines. A new “Tech it Out” kiosk in the Student Center allows students to swipe their student ID, punch in a code and get out one of 12 Dell laptops. They are available for short-term checkout and can be used anywhere on campus.

NACC also is working on a statue of the school’s two mascots, Trouper the mustang and Roscoe the campus dog. NACC’s resident artist and instructor Barbara Kilgore created the design and is working with University of Alabama artist and instructor Katie Adams to build it.

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The college actively recruits students into career technical programs through a combination of STEM outreach activities and dual enrollment opportunities. The college’s STEM outreach initiatives include BEST Robotics, a regional technology fair, and summer STEM camps and workshops.

The college requires all students in Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree programs to participate in a work experience program. Work experience can be a semester-long preceptorship, short-term or long-term cooperative education placements, or U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship programs.

The college is an Accredited Training and Education Facility through the National Center for Construction Education and Research, and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council has designated NACC as a training site and assessment center.

NACC offers two options for a short-term certificate in cybersecurity, as well as a degree in computer information systems-cybersecurity option. NACC has partnered with the University of Alabama in Huntsville to provide full tuition scholarships, professional development and living stipends to cybersecurity majors. It also has a partnership with the Jackson County Google Datacenter to offer the Google IT Support Professional program for credit at NACC with associated short-term certificates in Google IT Support Professional and Data Center option.

NACC also has a networking skills training academy in collaboration with networking firm Cisco. The courses are delivered in partnership with Cisco Networking Academy.

Recent developments from NACC’s Workforce Development Division include:

  • The college opened a new building construction program with six degree options, six certificate options and 14 short-term certificate options.
  • The machine tool technology program acquired a Haas UMC500 five-axis CNC mill.
  • The industrial electronics/mechatronics program acquired an SMC manufacturing production line that simulates the key components of a modern manufacturing facility.
  • The CDL program received a truck driving simulator to enhance the student experience and to train students to handle emergency situations in a controlled environment.
  • The college received a grant from Google to help women, people of color and youth in rural Appalachia have access to pathways that lead to livable-wage careers.
Snead State Community College offers dozens of academic and career technical programs.

Snead State Community College

Snead State Community College has its main campus in Boaz plus instructional sites in Arab and at the Aviation College in Albertville, all within Marshall County. The college offers dozens of academic and career technical programs for certifications and associate degrees. Snead State offers opportunity for adult learners, recent high school or GED graduates, and current high school students who opt for dual enrollment. There are approximately 2,135 students.

Snead State is under new leadership. Joe Whitmore, former CFO and interim president, was named president in November 2020.

Since 2019, Snead State has experienced changes to the main campus. The McCain Student Center received a complete renovation and will house the business office, admissions, other administrative offices and a student area.

Snead State recently replaced the flooring in the Plunkett Wallace Gymnasium, a project that began after the college dedicated the basketball court to former Coach John Kitchens. In 2019, Snead State also constructed a new greenhouse for the rapidly growing horticulture program. The college recently entered into a partnership with the City of Boaz regarding the horticulture program. The city provides funding toward the program, and the horticulture students earn practical experience through beautification efforts around the city.

Snead State has recently received funding to apply toward the development of a Regional Workforce Training Center. The plans for the training center are still being developed.

A significant portion of Gadsden State Cherokee’s student population hails from Cherokee County.

Gadsden State Cherokee

In August 2002, Gadsden State Cherokee opened as an instructional site and it remains a mainstay in higher education in Northeast Alabama, joining four other Gadsden State campuses serving students in Calhoun, Etowah, Cherokee, Cleburne and St. Clair counties. Gadsden State Cherokee offers courses that meet the requirements for academic transfer, as well as nursing classes, adult education and the poultry science program.

More than 130 students are enrolled at Gadsden State Cherokee, which is housed in a multi-level complex that includes learning laboratories, a multi-purpose 2,500-seat arena, meeting rooms and a hospitality room. It also includes the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Center.

Currently, Gadsden State Cherokee employs 13 full-time and 14 part-time faculty and staff members. Around 41% of the student population is from Cherokee County with 72% being traditional students (ages 18-25). Almost 12% of Gadsden State Cherokee’s students are from west Georgia counties approved for in-state/reciprocal tuition. There are 37 students enrolled in the adult education program.

Gadsden State Cherokee offers flexible scheduling with day and evening classes in both traditional classrooms, online and hybrid options. Nursing programs are offered in evening and weekend formats that allow students to earn an associate degree in six semesters.

Gadsden State Cherokee also offers a 2+2 poultry science program for students planning to transfer to Auburn University.

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