Spotlight on Lauderdale & Colbert: Higher Education

Three higher education institutions provide several certificate and degree options for area residents

University of North Alabama.

University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is a comprehensive regional state university, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs in arts, sciences, engineering, business, technology, education, human sciences, nursing and other health professions. Its 130-acre campus is in Florence.

UNA is home to about 9,500 students. It offers study-abroad programs, flexible scheduling and online programs, as well as workforce development initiatives.

Nicknaming itself Alabama’s Workforce Development University, UNA prioritizes degrees that lead directly to jobs and career advancement, with an emphasis on computing, engineering, nursing and health professions, accounting, professional management and early childhood/elementary education.

In fall 2022, UNA celebrated its 14th consecutive term of record enrollment, with an increase of nearly 40% since 2015. Some 10% of the students come from overseas. Online and graduate programs are booming, with about 30% of students in online programs and another 30% in graduate school.

In the past two years, UNA launched its first doctoral programs — the Executive Doctor of Business Administration and the Ph.D. in exercise science and health promotion. It will launch its third, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, during the 2022-23 academic year.

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With more than 1,000 students, UNA’s AACSB-accredited MBA program is the largest in the state of Alabama and among the largest in the Southeast. It also has one of the largest baccalaureate nursing programs in the state, and routinely ranks near the top of public and private nursing programs statewide for its nursing certification exam passage rate. UNA also is home to Kilby Laboratory School, the only university-affiliated laboratory school in Alabama.

UNA’s collegiate athletic programs recently became a member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Big South Conference. It holds seven Division II national championships.

Northwest-Shoals Community College.

Northwest-Shoals Community College

Northwest-Shoals Community College has provided postsecondary and workforce education for more than 58 years. It offers more than 100 certificate and degree programs — a mix of academic, career tech and other programs.

NW-SCC has two campuses — one in Muscle Shoals and another in Phil Campbell in Franklin County. Enrollment as of fall 2021 is almost 3,400. The college employs about 529 people, some full time and some part time.

The college is well-known for its health studies programs, which include medical assisting technology, registered nursing and paramedics ranging from short-term certification to degree programs.

In addition, the college works with local employers to help students meet workforce development needs or prepare for a new career.

In fall 2021, Northwest-Shoals Community College reinstated its athletic programs, beginning with softball and baseball and adding others as facilities are prepared.

Teams compete in the Alabama Community College Conference, NJCAA and National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The college offers a Career Center on the Shoals campus, helping students with soft skills, work-based learning opportunities, employment guidance and career exploration. Also on campus, the Career Closet allows students to use appropriate and professional clothing options.

NW-SCC offers apprenticeship programs for advanced manufacturing, automotive service and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The FAME program, for example, offers students a mix of classroom instruction and on-the-job training over the course of five semesters. The HVAC apprenticeship is offered in conjunction with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 711, Local 65, providing a non-credit pathway to a career as a machinist for the Tennessee Valley Authority and its partner contractors.

Heritage Christian University.

Heritage Christian University

Heritage Christian University is a private, nonprofit university in Florence and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. HCU is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

HCU offers bachelor’s through doctoral degrees in Bible studies.

Recently, the Heritage Christian University Graduate School of Theology was awarded associate membership by the Association of Theological Schools. It is working toward ATS accreditation.

HCU and the University of North Alabama have an articulation agreement to facilitate transfer credit and graduate program enrollment. The colleges already have a strong relationship with shared faculty and a contract between Collier Library at UNA and Overton Memorial Library at HCU.

This article appeared in the October 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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