Spotlight on Lee, Russell & Macon: Higher Education

Lee, Russell and Macon counties have an array of higher education institutions.

Harold D. Melton Student Center on the campus of Auburn University.

Auburn University

Auburn University has provided instruction, research and outreach to benefit the state of Alabama and the nation for 165 years and is among a distinctive group of universities designated as land-, sea- and space-grant institutions. Auburn makes a $5.6 billion economic contribution to the state each year, has more than 300,000 graduates and provides more than 150 degree programs to more than 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

Auburn is recognized for its commitment to scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an Carnegie R1 classification and outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation.

The university has been recognized as among the nation’s top 50 public institutions by U.S. News & World Report; as among the 100 best values by Kiplinger; as tops in the state by Forbes and Money magazines; and on Princeton Review’s list of Best 386 colleges.

The Auburn Research and Technology Foundation and the Auburn Research Park bring together the research and business communities to complement the research and economic development initiatives of the university.

In February, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering announced the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute, which will oversee the units that are heavily involved in transportation research, including the National Center for Asphalt Technology and its affiliated test track, the Highway Research Center, the Alabama Transportation Assistance Program and the GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory.

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The College of Sciences and Mathematics acquired an X-ray device to facilitate research that might one day expand the output of batteries and fuel cells.

The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Construction is also in progress.

In the spring, Auburn began construction of a new Football Performance Center, including indoor practice facilities.

The final construction beam was placed in May at the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, which will house programs in hospitality management and culinary science, as well as a boutique hotel and teaching restaurant.

Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering opened its Advanced Structural Testing Laboratory.

This fall, The Edge at Central Dining opened its doors, featuring food grown by the College of Agriculture.

In April, Auburn renamed two residence halls in honor of prominent Black alumni Josetta Brittain Matthews and Bessie Mae Holloway.

The university added a child life-focused master’s program.

The McWhorter School of Building Science is using Mac, a Boston Dynamics robotic dog, for instruction, construction project evaluation, research and outreach.

The university received a $10 million National Science Foundation grant to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education among students with disabilities. A $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant seeks to broaden student participation in biomedical sciences. It’s an interdisciplinary initiative involving the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Education and Office of Inclusion and Diversity.

Auburn had 18 representatives at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games.

James H. M. Henderson Hall at Tuskegee University.

Tuskegee University

Tuskegee University has a total enrollment of 2,747, with 283 faculty and 28 research faculty. It is ranked No. 4 among Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities by U.S. News & World Report, and the school ranks highly for teaching and best value schools. It also is the only HBCU to be designated a National Historic Site.

Tuskegee offers 42 bachelor’s degrees, 16 master’s degrees and six doctoral degree program options. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as well as other accrediting with specialized fields and disciplines.

In July, Dr. Charlotte Morris was appointed as the ninth president of Tuskegee University. Morris, who had been serving as interim president, has been with the university more than 30 years and has been actively involved in developing the 2022-2027 strategic plan.

Among its accolades: Tuskegee is the No. 1 producer of Black aerospace science engineers in the nation and is a leading producer of engineering graduates in chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering as well. It is the only HBCU with a fully accredited College of Veterinary Medicine that offers the doctoral degree and produces more than 75% of the world’s Black veterinarians. It also has the first nursing baccalaureate program in the state and one of the oldest in the U.S.

Recent grants to Tuskegee include nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation to train local high school students in information technology and cybersecurity. Also, Tuskegee was one of five participants in a $20 million program to find methods of preventing high blood pressure in underserved populations. Tuskegee received a three-year $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a partnership between the college and the University of Pennsylvania for preservation education, outreach and practice centered on Black heritage. Tuskegee also received a $5 million grant from Google to help expand diverse representation in the STEM industry.

Tuskegee has established the Center for Rural Health and Economic Equity to help address COVID-19 health disparities by improving ethical data collection, testing, contact tracing, treatment and public awareness.

Tuskegee University and Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law have created a new partnership that will allow Tuskegee students to participate in an accelerated bachelor’s to Juris Doctor program.

Tuskegee has partnered with Propel Center, a new global campus headquartered in Atlanta that supports innovative learning and development for HBCU’s nationwide.

Southern Union State Community College’s Business & Technology Center.

Southern Union State Community College

Southern Union State Community College is the second oldest two-year college in Alabama. With an enrollment of 3,985, it offers academic, technical and health science programs, as well as academic transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

SUSCC has campuses in Wadley, Opelika and Valley.

Its top award-producing degree programs include general studies, registered nursing, multi-disciplinary studies, radiologic technology and EMT. Top award-producing certificate programs include multidisciplinary studies, industrial maintenance technology, licensed practical nursing, drafting/design technology and EMT. SUSCC has 175 part-time faculty and 95 full-time faculty.

Campus highlights include the Higginbotham Academic Center’s Health Sciences building with labs and a simulated health care facility for nursing, radiography and emergency medical services students. The Center for Integrated Manufacturing gives students a chance to work together in a manufacturing center so they are better prepared to enter the workforce.

With more than 100 students in the fine arts department, Southern Union is one of a select few community colleges to offer a comprehensive program of fine arts in music, dance, theater and technical production.

Southern Union students have many options for athletics, clubs and internship programs.


Chattahoochee Valley Community College

CVCC is a public, comprehensive, community college serving a diverse population through traditional classroom and distance-learning formats. Because the school is close to Columbus, Georgia, students living within a 50-mile radius of the campus are not charged out-of-state tuition.

CVCC offers more than 20 certificate programs and the opportunity to earn an associate in science, liberal arts or applied science. The school serves traditional and nontraditional students.

The school has 1,372 students, and there are 268 full-time and part-time employees.

Health care is a major option at CVCC.

CVCC has the only medical assisting program in the area accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. It is a two-year associate degree program with opportunities to earn a short certificate in medical assisting or phlebotomy along the way.

The Nursing Programs at CVCC are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and approved by the Alabama Board of Nursing, and the EMT program is accredited by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

CVCC’s Allied Health program licensure exams passage rates for 2020 were higher than the state and national averages — 91.1.% for associate degree nursing; 96.3% for licensed practical nursing and 83.3% for medical assisting technology.

CVCC offers Manufacturing Skills Standards Council credentials in the areas of Certified Production Technician and Certified Logistics Technician and boasts a 100% passage rate for certification.

It is the only Alabama community college that offers an associate’s degree and certificates in Fire Science.

CVCC students can participate in athletics and in career-related internships.

An aerial view of Troy University’s Phenix City campus.

Troy University, Phenix City

Troy University’s Phenix City Campus offers degree programs that help meet the needs of students in east Alabama and Columbus, Georgia, particularly through course schedules that are convenient for working adult students.

The campus, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Dionne Rosser-Mims,  offers undergraduate and graduate programs in business and accounting, human resource management, education, human services, psychology, social work, counseling and criminal justice.

Troy recently adopted the Clear Cost Plan, a new pricing structure that greatly reduces the number of fees students pay and creates a clearer cost to attend.

Troy also assists adult learners by offering childcare options.

New at the campus are Sorrell College of Business resources to help students bring entrepreneurial ideas to the marketplace. The school also has partnered with TSYS and VISA to offer a certificate in conflict resolution, particularly in credit card disputes.

Troy has received a $3 million U.S. Department of Education grant to help train counselors of state vocational rehabilitation agencies in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. And it has received an Alabama Department of Public Health grant to form the Troy University Suicide Prevention Coalition on the Phenix City campus.

A new program at the Phenix City campus is helping elementary teachers work toward master’s degrees.

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