Jan 21, 2015

On the road in Alabama with the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA)

Birmingham Southern College

Shrugging off the cool temperatures and overcast skies typical of winter in the deep South, 30+ independent educational consultants, all members of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), recently set out to explore seven of Alabama’s colleges and universities over the course of three days.

While the weather wasn’t perfect, the warm southern hospitality found at each of the campuses more than made up for the chill in the air.
And make no mistake—there’s plenty to see in Alabama.  Gorgeous campuses, reasonable tuition, impressive scholarships, and a tradition of academic excellence make it easy to understand why these colleges are attracting an increasing number of out-of-state students. 

Auburn University
Auburn is one of the largest universities in the South and one of few universities in the country designated as a land, sea and space grant university.  And as an academic community, Auburn distinguishes itself in many ways:  the first bachelor of wireless engineering in the country; one of only 5 universities with capability and expertise to conduct research into nuclear waste storage and recycling; Auburn’s new curriculum in automotive engineering and manufacturing is the first of its kind in the Southeast; Auburn’s Raptor Center is the Southeast’s only full-service, on-campus medical and rehabilitation center for birds of prey; and Auburn has consistently been a leader in aviation education and research.

Auburn’s surge in popularity has resulted in a small overenrollment issue, which means that enrollment will be “capped” this year.  For fall 2013, 4592 freshmen enrolled at Auburn University, bringing undergraduate enrollment to 20,629—about 900 over target, according to admissions officials. The goal this year will be to bring numbers more under control by limiting the incoming class to 4400. 

Auburn’s application is released on September 1 and the first decisions, based only on test scores and grade point averages, are rolled out on October 15.  Scholarships are generous, ranging from full tuition plus a $1000 technology stipend (32-36 ACT or 1400-1600 SAT and a minimum 3.5 GPA) to $3000 per year (28-29 ACT or 1250-1320 SAT and a minimum 3.5 GPA).  War Eagle!

Birmingham Southern College
The “most nontraditional college president in America today,” General Charles “Chuck” Krulak spent his first year at Birmingham Southern College (BSC) living in the dorms to better understand the student experience.  And from the experience, he came up with the idea for the RISE3 (Research, Internships, Service, Experience) initiative. RISE3 challenges students to apply their skills in the real world by exploring a variety of experiences connected to academics. 

Big news at BSC is the introduction of an on-campus cadaver lab.  With a substantial donation, the biology department purchased the necessary supplies and equipment so that 16 students in human anatomy would have access to two bodies in the new laboratory.  Pre-med students consider the experience a real advantage for medical school applications.

Samford  University
A Christian university located on a stunning campus in a scenic corner of Birmingham, Samford currently enrolls 68% of its students from out of state and likes to remind visitors that it’s the #1 top-ranked university in Alabama, according to Forbes, Inc. Although most of the facilities on the Birmingham campus are relatively new, Samford is actually the 87th oldest university in the U.S. and the 6th oldest in Alabama.  But you wouldn’t know judging from the modern academic buildings and 28 state-of-the-art residence halls housing 2,241 students in 1,309 rooms.

For athletes, the Samford Bulldogs compete in 17 NCAA Division I sports.  Between 2008 and 2014, Samford has won 19 conference championships and 20 players have been drafted into professional sports.  And tailgating is huge!

But at the core of the Samford experience is its Christian commitment and motto:  “For God, for learning, forever.”

Tuskegee University
Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University offers an impressive variety of programs contained within seven colleges:  the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Science; the College of Business and Information Science; the College of Engineering; the School of Architecture and Construction Science; the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Education; and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health.

One of the “top ranked” Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in the United States, Tuskegee is situated on 5,000 acres of land—450 of which make up the main campus—and is the only university in the nation designated as a National Historic District Site.

Particularly noteworthy for prospective students is the Tuskegee National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, which grew out of President Clinton’s 1997 apology to the nation, the survivors of the Syphillis Study, Tuskegee University, and Tuskegee/Macon County for the US Public Health Service medical experiment conducted from 1932 to 1972.  More than $20 million in grants and pledges have been made to Tuskegee to help grow and operate the Center, which supports an interdisciplinary undergraduate Bioethics minor.

University of Alabama
The University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa, offers one of the most generous National Merit scholarship programs in the country and is a leader among public universities nationwide in the enrollment of National Merit Scholars, with more than 600 currently enrolled.  Scholars receive the value of tuition for up to 5 years or 10 semesters for degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as one year of on-campus housing, a $3,500 per year stipend for 4 years, a one-time allowance of $2,000 for use in summer research or international study, and an iPad.  “We like to think we are recruiting scholars in the way we recruit athletes.”

And the results are clear.  Forty-one UA students have been named Goldwater Scholars in the last 25 years, including two in 2014.  UA has produced a total of 15 Rhodes Scholars, 14 Truman Scholars, and numerous Hollings Scholars.  Eight graduates have accepted Fulbright awards to study and teach abroad during 2014-15, and 27 UA faculty have received NSF CAREER Awards—the nation’s most prestigious recognition of young scientists.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
While deeply embroiled in a controversy involving the future of its football team, the University of Alabama at Birmingham continues to stand tall in academics and boasts of remarkable growth in “size, quality, reputation and impact.”   In 1969, UAB became an independent institution, one of the autonomous universities within the newly created three-campus University of Alabama System.  It is now the largest research institution in the state of Alabama, the largest employer in Birmingham, and is a nationally recognized academic health center with schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Optometry.

Some of UAB’s more unique programs include Neuroscience, Forensic Sciences (with emphasis on cybercrime), Medical Industrial Distribution, Biomedical Engineering, and Musical Theatre.  In the works are undergrad programs in Cancer Biology, Immunology, and Bioinformatics.

Admitted students are offered up to $300 in travel vouchers to see the campus—why not?  And once enrolled, students have access to the Motorist Assistance Roadside Service (MARS)—a free service available to all visitors, students, and employees parking on campus who need help with a dead battery, flat tire, keys locked in a car, or empty gas tank.  Sweet!

University of Montevallo
Founded in 1896 as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School, the University of Montevallo opened its doors to men in 1956.  Today, it’s Alabama’s only public liberal arts university offering more than 30 degree programs featuring approximately 75 majors.

Originally designed by the Olmstead brothers of Central Park and Biltmore Estate fame, the campus features 73 buildings including 3 antebellum structures.  And the university boasts of the oldest homecoming tradition in the United States known as College Night, during which the entire campus divides into Purple or Gold sides for various events and competitions.

New this year is the President’s Outdoor Scholars program:  “Simplify your life, unplug and enjoy the great outdoors with like-minded students who love experiencing Mother Nature as much as you.”  The program includes activities ranging from bass fishing to duck hunts to guided big-game hunts, together with partial scholarships for students “who have distinguished accomplishments in outdoor sports and demonstrated a personal commitment to conservation.”

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