HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Wallace State Community College in Hanceville will soon be opening its first campus center in Oneonta, WSCC President Dr. Vicki Karolewics announced recently. The college expects to begin classes in January 2016, subject to approval by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
While many Blount County students already attend Wallace State’s campus in Hanceville, community and educational leaders from Oneonta and the greater Blount County area have sought local servicing by Wallace State for years, both for dual enrollment and regular enrollment.
“We commend the vision of the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, Superintendents of Oneonta and Blount County, Chamber and Economic Development officials for the future of Blount County and for making their case for a campus center to the Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System,” said Dr. Karolewics. “Their confidence in Wallace State speaks volumes about the work we do. Most importantly, it speaks volumes about the importance of community colleges to Alabama’s economic vitality. We look forward to providing expanded service to meet the needs of Oneonta and the citizens of Blount County with this new partnership.”
Wallace State has long been active in Blount County, including more than a decade of participation in the Oneonta-Blount County Chamber of Commerce, and the western half of Blount County has always been part of the college’s primary service area. Wallace State began a successful College Within a High School FastTrack dual enrollment program at J.B. Pennington High School several years ago. The college also has an off-campus center in Hayden and services Oneonta and other areas of the county through its adult education program.
“It is our mission to provide access to high quality, low-cost educational opportunities to the residents of the state of Alabama, and adding this campus center in Blount County will do that in an area that is currently underserved,” said ACCS Chancellor Mark Heinrich. “Also important is the fact that over the next decade, two-thirds of the jobs that will become available will require an education beyond high school. Many of those will be middle-skill jobs that require education and training beyond high school but not necessarily a four-year degree. Adding this new campus will give residents in Blount County and surrounding areas better opportunities for personal and professional growth.”
“I wholeheartedly support Wallace State Community College in the opening of a new campus center in Blount County,” said Al Thompson, District 1 representative of the ACCS Board of Trustees. “I believe it will be of great benefit to all the residents in the area and will help the community prosper and grow.”
Snead State’s president, Dr. Robert Exley, Chancellor Heinrich, and Dr. Karolewics met recently and Dr. Exley joined Chancellor Heinrich in support of Wallace State’s request for a new center. Wallace State has signed memorandum of understanding with Snead State allowing WSCC to serve all of Blount County, including Oneonta.
Oneonta and Blount County represent a growing market for new businesses and industry because of their location, adjacent to Jefferson County and the Birmingham metro area. Just the city of Birmingham alone has a population of 212,193 according to the 2010 Census. Oneonta itself has a population of 6,563 and is the largest and most active business center in Blount County, which has an overall population of 57,322.
Making higher education more accessible to residents of Blount County is critical when one considers that 35 percent of the residents over the age of 25 possess a high school credential but report no college attendance. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, this population in Blount County comprises 38,846 people. In addition, approximately 9,000 or 23 percent have less than a high school education, and are candidates for the college’s free Adult Education program.
At its new center in Oneonta, Wallace State will offer all required courses for completion of the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees as well as other workforce relevant certificates and credentials. As with its other off-campus sites, course offerings will be equal in academic rigor to courses offered on the main campus, and covered by the college’s SACSCOC accreditation.
Wallace State officials expect that the Oneonta campus center will also facilitate an expansion of dual enrollment offerings in Blount County from the current three area high schools (Locust Fork, J.B. Pennington and Hayden) to seven. In addition, the campus will serve as an anchor for Adult Education in the college’s efforts to reduce the number of residents without a high school credential. Currently, Wallace State offers adult education classes at Oneonta and Hayden, but the only adult education office and GED testing takes place on the main campus.
“From meetings with economic development leaders, Representatives David Standridge and Randall Shedd, and others in Blount County, I am convinced that the Oneonta campus would provide multiple benefits to the citizens of Blount County,” said Dr. Karolewics. “Students would be given access to an affordable education without the cost of travel, the local economy will benefit from the college’s investment directly, as well as through a better-trained and more highly-skilled local workforce. Wallace State’s presence will also provide a bridge to even higher levels of education and training for the county’s residents.”
“I would like to commend Wallace State Community College, the City of Oneonta, Blount County, and the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce for working together to locate a Wallace State campus in the city of Oneonta,” said Rep. Standridge. “Wallace State is a valuable institution of education for the people of our area and is a positive economic development tool in workforce training. I know firsthand the value of a Wallace State education, as I am an alumnus along with my wife and daughter. This is indeed exciting news for District 34 and Blount County.”
“I commend both WSCC and Blount County-Oneonta for getting together, and it will be a great partnership,” said Rep. Shedd. “Blount County is on the move as far as economic development and this new campus will tie in with that. It will be good for Wallace State and the Blount County area.”
“This is such a tremendous and exciting opportunity for all of Blount County,” said Aimee Wilson, Executive Director of the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce. “Wallace State has been an active and integral part of the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber and our community for such a long time. Its commitment to its students and the communities it serves goes beyond the classroom.
“Not only will this branch benefit the more than 800 Blount County students currently enrolled in Wallace State, but it will benefit all of our Blount County students for years to come as they now will have options for higher education right here at home. I am very grateful for the vision of Dr. Vicki Karolewics and the City of Oneonta and to their commitment to the future of Oneonta and Blount County.”
College personnel are working with officials in Blount County to identify a temporary facility for initiating the center that will be large enough to house classrooms, a student resource area (tutoring, ADA, a library to complement the main campus library’s offerings, study rooms, vending, student activities and clubs), offices, computer, writing, and science labs, a collaborative area for students, and a bookstore. Students will also have access to on-site and online registration, financial aid, advising, counseling, and other student services. Area officials are developing plans for the permanent location of the Wallace State Community College Oneonta Campus.
About Wallace State
Wallace State is an integral part of a community college system that, according to a study conducted in 2010 by Auburn University-Montgomery, has an economic impact of more than $2.6 billion. The college has been providing programs for a service area that comprises all or part of five counties in north-central Alabama: Cullman, Blount, Winston, Morgan, and Jefferson. In any given semester, approximately 800 students from Blount County attend Wallace State, the third largest population group after Cullman and Jefferson counties.
Established in 1963, Wallace State services approximately 5,500 students in college-credit programs, and approximately 7,000 students in credit and non-credit programs, each semester. Wallace State is the third largest community college in the state and the largest single-campus two-year institution. Its retention and graduation rates are consistently higher than national norms due largely to its strategic emphasis on strengthening portals of entry; on enhancing student success through multi-dimensional programs and intentionality of services; on augmenting workplace preparedness through programs and services that broaden engagement; on developing multiple strategies to support a culture of learning; on maintaining a culture of evidence marked by integrity and accountability; and by establishing transformational learning opportunities within, across, and beyond the college to prepare participants to lead successful and fulfilling lives. This strategic vision is reflected in Wallace State’s participation in a number of national programs and initiatives, including the AAC&U’s Roadmap Project, the White House 2020 initiative, and Achieving the Dream.
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.