FLORENCE — It seems these days the buddy system taught in kindergarten is also good for higher education.
As the state allocation decreases to the University of North Alabama, university officials are looking for new ways to bring the needed programs and academic offerings to the community, and the trend, at least recently for UNA, has been forming partnerships with other state universities to bring some programs to UNA students.
Most recently, UNA officials signed an agreement with Alabama A&M University to offer that school’s master’s of social work degree in Florence. Two weeks earlier, UNA officials signed a similar agreement to offer UNA’s master’s of business administration degree at Athens State University.
Additionally, the University of Alabama has offered its doctor of education in instructional leadership at UNA for two years.
The relationships between the institutions are described as mutually beneficial, UNA president William Cale said after signing the agreement with Alabama A&M earlier this week.
“As resources are declining, institutions are all looking for new and innovative ways to expand offering and expand their student base,” Cale said.
It isn’t always a financial gain but something more akin to being a good neighbor to the community. When UNA brings a program to campus from another university, that university actually receives the tuition and fees associated with the enrollment, according to university spokesman Josh Woods.
The reverse will happen when a student enrolls in the UNA MBA program at Athens State.
“In so many cases, nearby universities do offer programs that are appealing to people in our local community,” Woods said. “But traveling to those places can be quite an obstacle or barrier to people who could benefit from those programs. By bringing those programs here through partnerships, we are making them available.”
Cale said the programs UNA has formed partnerships with are those that are in high demand locally. He said it is also a trend that he expects to continue across higher education.
“This isn’t unique to UNA,” he said.
Joy Borah, chairwoman of the Department of Social Work, said social work as an undergraduate program has become increasingly popular in recent years. As has the desire for a higher level of education for social work undergraduates, Borah said.
“This is an opportunity for (our undergraduate) students,” Borah said. “This is a service to our community and our students.”
That program will be offered through Friday and Saturday classes to help accommodate working students.
The UNA-Athens State partnership makes traditional MBA program’s eight core courses available through a hybrid format, including online and traditional classes to offer flexible scheduling, according to a university release.
To serve the community, UNA opens classroom space and occasionally faculty to facilitate these programs, Woods said.
“This is purely, 100 percent a good neighbor policy,” he said. “The financial structure is exactly as it would be if you were traveling to Huntsville or Tuscaloosa, and these universities aren’t paying UNA to offer the programs here.”
The partnerships, at least for UNA, work best as graduate programs. Cale said that is because the student population served at the undergraduate level differs from the graduate population for these programs.
“Our undergraduates are primarily a residential population,” Cale said. “These types of partnerships don’t really serve that type of population.”
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.