Partnership Gives Students Access to Graduate Degree Scholarship, Flexible Path to Career Growth

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.Drake State Community & Technical College announced a partnership with nonprofit, online Western Governors University (WGU), allowing Drake State students and employees to pursue four-year and graduate degrees in high-demand sectors critical to the Huntsville area and Alabama employers. A signing ceremony was held on Monday, May 16th on the campus of Drake State.

“Drake State and WGU provided me with an excellent education that has helped me enter my chosen profession and excel,” said Max Tunstall, Chief Nursing Officer at Athens-Limestone Hospital. “Drake State offered a structured program where the instructors provided in-person instruction and one-on-one assistance. This was helpful when learning information and skills to prepare me to enter the workforce. WGU also provided a personalized education that was flexible and allowed me to balance my career, family, and educational obligations.”

WGU will provide Drake State graduates and employees with flexible, personalized learning pathways to undergraduate and graduate programs in high-demand areas such as cybersecurity, nursing, education and business. Drake students will also be eligible to apply for a new Drake State Graduate Scholarship to aid in their WGU studies. WGU’s online programs are mentor-supported and designed to fit into busy work and home schedules, assisting in the goal of building a future-ready workforce.

Both Drake State and WGU strive to provide an affordable and accessible education,” said Dr. Kimberly K. Estep, WGU’s Southeast Regional Vice President. “We are delighted to partner with an institution that aims to better their students and graduates with opportunities to broaden their education and careers alongside WGU.”

“Partnering with WGU will create an exciting new pathway to four-year and graduate degrees for Drake State students and alumni in high-demand careers in the Huntsville area,” said Dr. Patricia G. Sims, Drake State President. “This collaboration will provide more Drake State students and alumni, like Drake-WGU alumnus Max Tunstall, with a new educational pathway to further advance their careers and increase earnings, security, and opportunity for their families. We are grateful for this new opportunity for Drake’s students and Huntsville area employees and employers.”

Drake is WGU’s first community college partner in the State of Alabama. At present, there are 1,300 WGU students in Alabama and over 1,700 graduates in the state.

For more information about the schools, visit wgu.edu and drakestate.edu.

About Western Governors University (WGU)
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors, Western Governors University (WGU) is an online, nonprofit, competency-based university with career-aligned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in—IT, teaching, business, and healthcare—designed to help working professionals fit an online university education into their busy lives. WGU now serves more than 136,000 students nationwide and has more than 272,000 graduates in all 50 states. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, WGU is recognized as a highly effective postsecondary education model. Tuition is around $8,000 per year for most undergraduate degree programs.

WGU was recognized as a 2021 Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. In 2021, WGU was recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). WGU’s School of Information Technology was awarded a CAE designation by the National Security Agency (NSA) for its B.S. in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance program. WGU is also an Amazon Career Choice. Learn more at wgu.edu.

About Drake State Community and Technical College
Established in 1961, Drake State Community and Technical College is a historically black community college located in Huntsville, home to the fast growing, highly technical aerospace and defense industry, including the NASA Marshall Flight Center, US Army Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park, and the soon-to-be relocated Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters. Drake State offers flexible, affordable university-transfer 2-year and technical degrees, certificates, adult and continuing education, and customized technical skills training for the skilled force needs for Alabama and Huntsville area employers.

In 2021, Drake State was awarded a multi-year $1.2 million grant from NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). MUREP provides financial assistance via competitive awards to minority-serving institutions to increase the number of racial and ethnic minorities and women in science and engineering fields. In 2022, Drake partnered with North Alabama’s largest healthcare employer to create the Huntsville Hospital LPN Launch Program Powered by Drake State. The popular initiative will welcome its first Licensed Practical Nurse students this fall.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon has appointed Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims to the Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) Board of Directors. Sims, as President of an Alabama public two-year college, will represent all 24 schools within the Alabama Community College System.

Dr. Patricia Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College.

“Dr. Sims has such a broad and deep career in education,” said APC Executive Director Gail Piggott. “She is recognized as a community leader, exemplary administrative head, and someone who promoted building the workforce so that families can thrive.”

Dr. Sims has dedicated her career to education at multiple levels including primary to 12th grade, community college, and university.

“Education is my life’s work and I am honored to serve an organization that is committed to serving Alabama’s families,” said Sims. “The Alabama Community College System provides a unified system of institutions dedicated to delivering academic education, adult education, and workforce development. By providing an impact at an earlier stage, students in pre-kindgarten to high school will be able to gain the support and training needed to enter the workforce.”

The Alabama Partnership for Children relies on community colleges for the early childhood programs that help develop highly skilled teachers for the early childhood sector. Institutions like Drake State also help build skills and competencies for families to improve their livelihoods and incomes.

“Dr. Sims involvement with young people and her interest in their success dovetails perfectly with the vision statement of the Alabama Partnership for Children that ‘every Alabama child will have the opportunity to succeed in life,” said APC Board Chairperson Trippy McGuire. “We welcome Dr. Sims as a new member of our board and look forward to her lending her expertise and enthusiasm to our organization.”

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