UAB, Birmingham City Schools announce partnership

Opportunities for area students created by partnership, new enrollment initiative.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, Ph.D., joined University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) President Ray Watts on Feb. 27, 2013, to announce the details of a partnership that — in conjunction with a new UAB enrollment initiative — will give area high school graduates greater access to UAB, as well as provide financial assistance and connect them to appropriate support services to facilitate academic success.

The partnership includes a scholarship program that offers a possible total award of $10,500 over four years for any high school graduate of Birmingham City Schools who enrolls at UAB in the fall following their high school graduation.

UAB leadership has met with Dr. Witherspoon, as well as the principals of all seven Birmingham City high schools in recent months, to establish the partnership in which UAB staff will communicate regularly with guidance counselors to enroll high school graduates under the appropriate admissions criteria.

“While we serve a diverse population with students from at least 100 countries — and our reach continues to expand — UAB remains committed to our local communities right here in Birmingham,” Watts said at a press conference. “That is one reason why I am proud to announce that Birmingham City Schools is willing to partner with UAB to expand the reach of these new enrollment initiatives.”

UAB recently adjusted baseline admissions criteria to allow for individualized candidate review in which input is solicited from a student’s high school guidance counselor. UAB also created two new programs: Blazing Start, in which incoming freshman who did not meet automatic acceptance criteria will receive dedicated advising/mentoring and counseling, be limited to 12-hour course loads in the first year and be required to take a two-hour Freshman Year Experience (FYE) course focusing on academic skill development, as well as complete academic success workshops; and a joint admissions program that will allow students not eligible for standard admission or Blazing Start to be admitted jointly to UAB and a community college partner – with access to UAB facilities, resources and support from UAB staff, as well as a $2,000 scholarship to UAB if they complete an associate’s degree.

“While we serve a diverse population with students from at least 100 countries — and our reach continues to expand — UAB remains committed to our local communities right here in Birmingham. That is one reason why I am proud to announce that Birmingham City Schools is willing to partner with UAB to expand the reach of these new enrollment initiatives.”

-UAB President Ray Watts, M.D.

Dr. Witherspoon believes these new admission standards and programs will make a UAB education a reality for more Birmingham City Schools graduates, and he was pleased to establish and announce the first school system partnership.

“Establishing a process by which dedicated UAB admissions staff meet regularly and consult with our guidance counselors will allow decision-makers to see the real promise in our students,” Witherspoon said. “This is not only a partnership around an enrollment program. Birmingham City Schools and UAB are not just interested in getting students into college. This is a graduation partnership. Students who receive additional support outside of the classroom – whether from family, tutors, peer mentors or others – do better at all levels of education.”

Mayor William Bell spoke of his optimism at the press conference Wednesday.

“I am already looking forward to the next time we get together in a forum like this to share some of the great results with the community,” Bell said. “Next time, we’ll get some of the students who benefit from this partnership up here to tell you about their accomplishments.”

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