Spotlight on Jefferson County: Higher Education

From public and private universities to the largest public community college in the state, students in Jefferson County have a number of higher education options.

The UAB campus in the heart of Birmingham draws students from across the state and beyond.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

UAB is a research university and academic medical center and a major economic driver in Jefferson County.

With more than 22,500 students, not including the more than 1,400 full-time advanced professionals, the university’s schools of academic study include arts & sciences, business, dentistry, education, engineering, health professions, joint health sciences, medicine, nursing, optometry and public health.

U.S. News & World Report named UAB among its list of the Top 25 of America’s Best Graduate Schools for 2022. Moreover, in its 2021-2022 Best Hospitals report, U.S. News & World Report ranked UAB’s eight specialties among the nation’s top 50 programs of their kind.

UAB is Jefferson County’s largest employer with 23,609 workers, including 12,466 university employees and 11,143 hospital employees. Among those workers, more than 17,600 are employed full time.

This year Forbes magazine ranked UAB as America’s No. 1 Best Large Employer and the No. 4 Best Employer for New Graduates. Forbes also ranked UAB as one of the nation’s Best Employers for Diversity for 2021. UAB’s employee pool is approximately 59.8% white, 27.2% Black/African American, 8.2% Asian and 1.9% Hispanic.

- Sponsor -

The UAB campus covers 100 city blocks, and currently, the university has $335 million in construction taking place to erect new buildings and renovate others. They include:

  • Phase one of the new $76 million Science and Engineering Complex set for completion in 2023.
  • Renovation of the McCallum Basic Health Sciences Building. The $78 million project will be completed in 2024.
  • UAB is also renovating the Lyons-Harrison Research Building. The new Altec Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building will cost $75 million and is slated to open in 2024.
  • The new McMahon Residence Hall, located near the UAB Campus Green, is a $72 million, 720-bed dormitory.
  • UAB recently completed work on its $26 million Information Technology Center.
  • Medical Properties Trust and Melinda and Edward K. Aldag Jr. gave the UAB Collat School of Business $1 million to support students in the school’s entrepreneurial program.

Birmingham-Southern College

Founded in 1856, Birmingham-Southern College is a private, Christian liberal arts college located three miles outside of downtown Birmingham. The Princeton Review has listed the college among the best in the Southeast and the nation based on academic excellence. In addition, the Fiske Guide to Colleges highlighted Birmingham-Southern as “striving to prepare students for all aspects of the modern world, with high-tech facilities and a curriculum that prioritizes critical thinking, teamwork and global awareness.” The college has 1,283 students from across the United States and the world.

Recently, the school teamed up with Barnes & Noble to launch a course material delivery system that folds the cost of the materials into the tuition. The aim is to make course materials more affordable and ensure that students can access them for their classes.

The college also debuted an Accelerated Data Science Program for undergraduate students in partnership with Flatiron School.

Jefferson State Community College serves more than 13,000 students in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Chilton counties.

Jefferson State Community College

Jefferson State is one of Alabama’s leading two-year colleges with an annual enrollment of more than 13,000 students in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Chilton counties. It is the largest community college in central Alabama. About 60% of students transfer to a four-year university and about 20% are enrolled in health programs.

With more than 250 nursing graduates each year, Jefferson State is the state’s leading producer of associate degree nursing graduates. Jefferson State offers more than 120 transfer programs, 33 career programs and several certificate programs, from culinary arts and computer information systems to veterinary nursing and manufacturing technology. The college also delivers non-credit workforce training in career programs that can be completed in as little as six weeks. Jefferson State is also a leader in dual enrollment programs with more than 1,800 high school students earning college credits.

Jefferson State was the first community college to receive regional accreditation by SACS-COC in 1968 and was the first to develop an accredited nursing program in Alabama.

New developments on campus include:

  • Jefferson State will debut a new histology associate degree program this fall semester. Histologic technicians prepare microscopic slides from surgeries and autopsies to help pathologists diagnosis diseases.
  • The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham recently awarded Jefferson State a $50,000 grant to develop IT in-demand training for unemployed, low-income adults.
  • Jefferson State opened its new welding center on the Shelby-Hoover campus, offering online and hands-on training.

Lawson State Community College

Lawson State is a two-year public college with campuses in southwest Birmingham and Bessemer. The school has both an academic division and a career technical division, offering degrees in nursing, business, computer science, child development and air conditioning/refrigeration. Enrollment is 2,615 with 43% attending full time. ranks Lawson State’s LPN nursing program number one in Alabama.

Miles College

Miles College is a historically black liberal arts college in Fairfield, founded in 1898 in association with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

The college offers 28 bachelor’s degree options and serves about 1,700 students, and it is on the U.S. News & World Report list of best regional colleges in the South.

The college made headlines this year when it used pandemic relief funds to clear its students’ outstanding college debts.

Late last year, the school became a community center for Coding and Creativity through Apple’s Community Education Initiative.

Founded in 1841, Samford University currently serves 5,729 students.

Samford University

Samford University is a nationally ranked Christian university offering undergraduate programs, and nationally recognized graduate and professional schools in the arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. The university ranks first in the nation for graduation success among NCAA Division I schools.

Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford’s enrollment is 5,729, including 3,576 undergraduate students and 2,153 graduate students. Its fiscal and economic impact on Alabama is more than $424 million with 2,424 jobs.

Recent developments include:

  • Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School launched a new Certificate of Wesleyan Studies for Master of Divinity students.
  • Samford University announced its new Ragland Scholars program this year. The program is designed to foster academic and social support for Black, Indigenous and other persons of color who enter the university. The program is named for Elizabeth Sloan Ragland, who in 1969 became the first woman to integrate Samford’s campus housing.
  • Samford recently launched Project SAMson, linking the school with Andrews Sports Medicine and the American Sports Medicine Institute. to promote injury prevention for student athletes and prepare students for related careers.

Faulkner University-Birmingham

Faulkner has had a campus in Birmingham for more than 70 years, offering evening and online classes to accommodate working students. The school is also home to the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.

Highlands College

Highlands College is affiliated with Church of the Highlands and works to prepare students for ministry. The school recently received a $20 million gift from Hobby Lobby founder Dave Green to build a residence hall.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox