Potential partnership announced during Opelika chamber breakfast

Opelika Chamber of Commerce members and guests got to hear it first at breakfast Tuesday.

"I get to make a new announcement," said Freida Hill, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. "Southern Union has invited Auburn University to partner with them by offering a bachelor's degree, through their College of Business, at Southern Union's Opelika campus during the evening hours.

"This is a big step. And they are working on the process right now of filing the papers with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

"What a great opportunity for our students to be able to move on in their education and career, and they can do it right there in their own hometown."

The chancellor was the guest speaker at Tuesday's Opelika Chamber of Commerce Business Over Breakfast event at the Saugahatchee Country Club in Opelika.

What were considered junior colleges in the old days are now considered community colleges, said the community college system chancellor.

"It made us seem to be a little bit less than what we were," Hill said. "We are now community colleges."

The chancellor said the community college system covers the entire state with its 27 campuses and 90 instructional sites.

"We have 21 community colleges in our system," Hill said. "We have four technical colleges. We have Marion Military Institute, which is one of only five in the nation.

"Also, we have Athens State University that delivers the last two years of the degree, [what] we call the upper level. Athens State is also one of only five in the nation."

Included in the system in the area is Southern Union Community College with campuses in Opelika, Valley and Wadley.

She also said the system is responsive to the needs of local businesses and industry through Alabama Industrial Development Training's 160 ongoing projects, from shipbuilding to robotics and the Alabama Technology Network's 16 sites, with most of those sites present on college campuses.

Hill said the system even offers prison education.

"One of our college's total mission, Ingram Technical College, is prison education," Hill said.

"If they don't have a skill when they come out of prison, we know that the chances of them going back very soon is very high.

"I often say, 'Everything we do in the community college system is about workforce and economic development.'"

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