Spotlight on Jefferson County: Higher Education

Eight institutions of higher learning provide certificate and degree options for area residents

University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham, part of the University of Alabama System, is an internationally renowned comprehensive research university and academic medical center that ranks among the top 8% of universities worldwide, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-2023 Best Global Universities. Other recent accolades for UAB include:

  • Times Higher Education named UAB the No. 1 “Young U.S. University” two years in a row (2018, 2019) and the No. 12 “Young University” worldwide.
  • UAB is the first Health Promoting University in the nation.
  • S. News & World Report named UAB’s Master of Science in health administration program No. 1 in 2023.
  • Fortune named UAB’s cybersecurity program No. 1 in the U.S. in 2023.
  • UAB’s Online was ranked No. 15 by Newsweek in 2023 and the university has 11 of the best online programs according to U.S. News & World Report.
  • 16 graduate programs are ranked in the Top 25 by the U.S. News & World Report.

The university, which has welcomed more than 21,500 students each year for five consecutive years, offers 180-degree programs in arts and sciences, business, dentistry, education, engineering, health professions, joint health sciences, medicine, nursing, optometry and public health.

New this fall at UAB is the Blazer Core Curriculum, a program designed to prepare students for lifelong learning and for leadership in their communities and in their chosen careers.

UAB continues to improve facilities across its 100-city-block campus and has spent $1.1 billion on new construction and major renovations in the last decade. Currently, the university has $335 million in construction projects underway, including:

  • The Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Science Building and the Marnix E. Heersink Institute for Biomedical Innovation Conference Center. The 175,000-square-foot building features an iconic double-helix design and will bring together researchers from different disciplines. Total project cost is expected to exceed $78 million with construction expected to be complete in spring 2024.
  • A $156.7 million, 350,000-square-foot, 11-story inpatient rehabilitation facility, featuring 78 rehabilitation beds and 28 acute care beds, that will replace the Spain Rehabilitation Center.
  • Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, expected to be complete in early 2025. The five-story, 211,000-square-foot building has an estimated cost of $120 million.
  • UAB’s School of Engineering will have a new home in 2025 in Frances and Miller Gorrie Hall, a nearly 116,000-square-foot, $61 million facility that will house advanced labs, research suites and common areas. Construction of Gorrie Hall is the second phase of UAB’s new Science and Engineering Complex project. The first phase was completed in May.
  • A Student Organization Facility.
  • A UAB Child Development Center is expected to be complete in January.
  • A parking deck at 14th Street South and Seventh Avenue should be complete in March.

Earlier this year, a Biomedical Research and Psychology Building received Stage 1 approval from the UA System Board of Trustees. The project is supported by a $76 million federal appropriation and, pending additional approvals by the board, will house research-intensive departments from the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

- Sponsor -

Birmingham-Southern College

Founded in 1856, Birmingham-Southern College is a four-year private liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The 192-acre campus, located three miles from downtown Birmingham, is home to 950 students from 30 states and 11 countries. The college offers 29 undergraduate majors, 26 minors and three distinctions. Students also have the option to participate in over 80 clubs and organizations, 13 fraternities and sororities, 11 club and intramural sports and 22 NCAA Division III varsity sports.

A new master’s program in data science started this fall to address the growing demand for data professionals. The two-year program is designed with working professionals in mind and combines online instruction with immersive in-person weekends held each term on the BSC campus. Course topics include ethics, artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain technology and applied analytics.

Jefferson State Community College

With an annual enrollment of more than 13,000 students and campuses in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Chilton counties, Jefferson State Community College is the largest community college in central Alabama. The college is also the state’s leading producer of nursing graduates with associate degrees — more than 250 each year.

Jefferson State offers 116 transfer programs, 39 career programs and 30 fast-track non-credit programs. Each year approximately 3,000 high school students earn college credit in more than 60 dual enrollment classes at the college. Jefferson State also has several articulation agreements with four-year universities allowing easy transfer to four-year institutions. Many of the college’s certificate programs can be completed in six weeks to six months, including training for in-demand jobs like welding, IT, commercial driver’s license, line worker, heavy equipment operation, web development, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant and pharmacy technician.

In November 2022, Jefferson State celebrated its new histological technician (HST) program. The program, which first offered classes during the fall 2021 semester, consists of basic associate degree courses alongside HST major courses that are taught online and a weekly on-campus lab, both of which are offered in the evening, as well as daytime clinical experiences at Birmingham-area hospitals and reference laboratories.

In October 2022, Jefferson State opened a training facility in downtown Birmingham that will focus on entry-level workforce training at St. Vincent’s Health System and provide on-site childcare for program participants.

Lawson State Community College

Lawson State Community College is a two-year institution with campuses in Birmingham and Bessemer. Its academic division offers general studies and health professions and a career technical division.

Lawson State ranked second on list of best online community colleges in the state and its practical nursing program ranked fifth in the state this year according to

In March, Birmingham city leaders announced a partnership with Lawson State to help city employees earn a commercial driver’s license for free.

In spring semester 2023, Lawson State had 2,697 students enrolled, 36% of them full-time.

Miles College

Founded in 1898, the private, historically Black liberal arts college in Fairfield has roots in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Miles College has an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students and offers 29 bachelor’s degree programs in six academic divisions.

In June, the college achieved a ten-year reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In May, Miles College formed a partnership with Drake State Community & Technical College to create scholarship opportunities and pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree. Under the agreement, Drake State students with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 will be considered for admission to Miles College after earning an associate degree with up to 64 credits transferring.

Samford University

Established in 1841, Samford University is the 87th-oldest university in the United States. The award-winning 247-acre campus in Homewood is home to more than 60 Georgian-Colonial-style buildings and has been recognized as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

The private Christian university offers 183 undergraduate- and 65 graduate-level majors, minors and concentrations in its 10 academic schools. Its 5,683 students enrolled in 2022 were from 47 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 19 countries. The fall of 2022 also saw the largest freshman class in the university’s history with 972 first-year students. More than 72% of students come from out of state and increasingly they choose to stay in Alabama after graduation.

Among Samford’s recent accolades are being recognized as one of the best universities in the nation for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report, placing in the top 2% of colleges and universities in the country, and ranking first nationally for student engagement according to The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education.

In June 2022, the university announced it will enlarge and renovate existing buildings to create a new recreation and athletic complex. The $65 million venture is the largest capital project in Samford’s history and is expected to be complete in fall 2024.

In May 2022, Samford received a $100 million gift from the estate of Marvin Mann ¢54 — $95 million is slated for endowed scholarships and
$5 million will support the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. The donation is the largest gift given to the university by a single donor.

Faulkner University-Birmingham

Faulkner University-Birmingham offers bachelor’s degrees in business fields, psychology and criminal justice. The school also offers associate degrees in computer and information science, legal studies and liberal arts. Classes are offered during the evening and online to accommodate work and family schedules.

The Birmingham campus also offers a Homeschool Dual Enrollment program in which high school juniors and seniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher can earn college and high school credits simultaneously.

Highlands College

Highlands College is a private institution that offers a two-year degree in ministry leadership. The 70-acre campus includes 19 learning studios, eight hands-on ministry training labs, dining and recreation facilities and a 1,400-seat auditorium that is also home to the Grandview Campus of Church of the Highlands.

This year, Highlands was granted initial accreditation by the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation.

The college also opened its first residence hall this year.

This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox