GAUTIER -- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and The University of South Alabama have been partners in some ways for decades.
After all, the Mobile university is easily less than an hour from the community college campus in Gautier, so it's a natural fit. USA has waived out-of-state tuition for Jackson County students for years. It even attempted a satellite campus at MGCCC five years ago.
But the Pathway USA program, announced Tuesday, is a special step.
The program helps students in two major ways -- those having trouble getting into USA can start at MGCCC with a dual ID card, and those who want to start at MGCCC will get early help, guidance and perks from USA for transition after graduation.
There is an emphasis on making sure graduates from MGCCC's Hotel & Restaurant Management program make a seamless move to USA's Hospitality and Tourism Management degree.
USA Hospitality Department chair Evelyn Green said Tuesday she sees great regional opportunities for Mississippi and Alabama.
MGCCC is one of the top three transfer colleges to USA already, and USA has more than 1,000 South Mississippi students on campus.
MGCCC President Mary Graham said at the signing ceremony officials expect 250 Hotel & Restaurant students to make the move to USA in the fall, and 200 in other fields.
She called the partnership "another historical event for MGCCC."
USA teams with other community colleges in its Pathway USA plan, but this is the first out-of-state one, a spokeswoman said.
Special benefits for MGCCC students:
-- Guaranteed admission to USA with an associate's degree and cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
-- A USA academic adviser who will meet students at MGCCC, offer guidance on course selection and map out a degree plan
-- Discounts on USA's Jaguar Productions
-- Complimentary admission to South Alabama home athletic events
-- Use of the USA library
-- A Pathway USA college ID card
USA and MGCCC tried a partnership five years ago, when the University of Southern Mississippi pulled classes from MGCCC's Jackson County campus, creating a vacancy. They were going to call it USA Gautier, a satellite campus for USA. But that didn't work out.
Besides USA, MGCCC has an agreement for Honors College and Concurrent Enrollment with USM. Mississippi State University teaches engineering classes at the Jackson County campus, with the intent of allowing students to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering in Gautier. And MGCCC's Jefferson Davis campus in Gulfport has an arrangement with MUW for a culinary degree.
For additional information, call USA's Admissions Office at 251-460-7834 or 251-460-7834.