GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A new program will help students obtain a four year degree at the University of South Alabama by starting at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. School leaders from MGCCC and the University of South Alabama signed a partnership Tuesday that has students and faculty excited about the possibilities.
While many students receive Associates degrees from MGCCC and go on to have great careers, some students hope for more education. Many of those who have plans to continue school choose community college for several reasons.
"I would rather stay closer to home," said student, Sandra Trinidad.
Another student, Brandon Martin, agreed and added, "I wanted to get used to the college environment."
A new program between MGCCC and the University of South Alabama is geared toward smoothing out the transition to senior college.
"We really think if we work together, we can provide the ability to those students not only to do community college, but get a four-year degree as well," said Dr. Tony Waldrop, President of the University of South Alabama.
Dr. Waldrop is excited about the possibilities of the program, called Pathway USA. Dr. Mary Graham, President of MGCCC, said this should set students up for success.
"If it's convenient for them, we know that they will go on and complete their degree and ideally come back to Mississippi and be a great taxpaying citizen," said Dr. Graham.
Brandon Martin is looking forward to the program so he can earn a computer engineering degree. He said the program takes away many of the financial burdens that a university presents.
"It's just great not having to worry about that for two years then going over there and getting a fresh start," said Martin.
Dr. Waldrop agreed, "Tuition here at Mississippi Gulf Coast is less than it is at the university. They will also be treated, if they are within 50 miles of the state line, as in-state students, so they'll pay in-state tuition. That captures parents' attention right away."
Sandra Trinidad said going to a community college is helping her prepare for life at USA.
"Personally, if you go here you can grow. Everybody truly cares about you and your career," said Trinidad.
She plans to attend USA in the fall to complete her engineering degree.
According to the University of South Alabama, MGCCC is the third community college to sign on with the program. Dr. Waldrop said students enrolled in the program will be considered future USA students and will be offered similar benefits to the ones enjoyed by current students. These include free admission to athletic events, and even a special identification card from the university.
The Pathway USA program officially begins in the fall of 2016.