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        Accounting, College

        Community college collaboration enables smooth transitions, efficiency

        June 29, 2021 By Joe McAdory

        All News



        "Harbert College’s exceptional School of Accountancy will provide many opportunities to explore a variety of accounting specialties and because of the versatility of an accounting degree, I will have many career options beyond Auburn University." — Mitali Patel 

        Mitali Patel had visions of working in corporate, government, or public accounting after college, but believed her path through higher education would be a long and winding road – as many degree programs are. But as a student-worker in the Dean of Academics’ Office at Southern Union State Community College, a new opportunity was revealed to Mitali … Path to the Plains (P2P).

        This unique program, which began in 2018, connects Southern Union State Community College students who aspire to transfer to Auburn University with several expedient options – allowing them to take typical academic core requirement courses (English composition, calculus, science, etc.) at Southern Union. At the same time, those students integrate into their intended major at Auburn by taking one or two major-specific classes each semester, still paying only SUSCC tuition.


        Mitali Patel, Path to the Plains' first School of Accountancy enrollee, will begin full-time at Auburn University this fall.

        “I was the first student to apply for the accounting degree pathway through Path to the Plains and the first to be selected,” said Patel, who also serves as Southern Union State Community College SGA President. “Being enrolled at Auburn and Southern Union at the same time, taking courses that are required for the accountancy major and also satisfy the Associate in Science degree requirements, saves me time and money and increases the likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree within four years.”

        The Harbert College of Business’ School of Accountancy just so happens to be the program’s most popular transfer option among P2P’s 10 degree programs with 13 of the program’s 34 new students enrolled for fall semester classes. Within four semesters, P2P accounting pathway students complete required Harbert College courses such as Professional Development in Business I & II, Operations Management of Business Processes, Informational Analysis, Principles of Financial Accounting, and Business Analytics.

        “Many students transfer in as a junior, which means they come straight into Intermediate Accounting I on our curriculum model. That's a challenging course whether you're a homegrown Auburn student or you're coming from another institution,” said Colby Lakas, School of Accountancy Director of Recruiting and Professional Development.

        “It's an even bigger step for someone who hasn't been cultivated in the ‘Auburn Way’ by taking principles of financial accounting here. Through the Path to the Plains program, Southern Union students receive the Auburn accounting foundation, making it an easier transition to Intermediate I than going from exclusive community college coursework directly into Intermediate I."

        Harbert College Academic Advisor Molly Hulsey said Path to the Plains students are “better prepared.”

        “Auburn is a rigorous university,” she said. “And when you choose to transfer into one of our highly-ranked programs like the School of Accountancy, Path to the Plains is the perfect answer because students take these pivotal, early courses at Auburn while still being enrolled at Southern Union. When I say pivotal courses, I mean that first accounting class, Principles of Financial Accounting. Every successful accounting major needs a strong foundation, and our principles of financial accounting course provides that foundation. It’s best to go ahead and take it here if you’re going to ultimately graduate from the Auburn program.”

        Aside from easing into rigorous academic schedules that come with higher education, P2P students become acclimated to another important aspect they won’t find on a community college campus, student life. Auburn is big. Very big. Navigating the campus with 30,000 other students can be overwhelming for a new transfer.

        “Culturally, their student experience transition is a big one as well because they're coming from a community college where it can feel very transient,” Lakas added. “There's not as much on-campus activity and not as much of a relationship with their faculty members, but P2P allows them to have a baby step approach where they are coming to campus in very small doses. They're immersing themselves into Auburn University's culture … the Auburn student experience. That's less of a shock when they get here as a full-time Auburn student. They know what it's like to walk the halls of Lowder and Horton-Hardgrave. They know what it's like to potentially participate in an activity like Meet the Firms because they're able to do these things as a P2P student.”

        Patel, who has split academics between Southern Union and the Harbert College the past two years, will finally be a full-time Auburn University student in the Spring of 2022.

        “I have had a wonderful experience at Southern Union and have made some great memories, but I am eager to be a full-time student at Auburn,” she added. “Thanks to Path to the Plains, I believe the transition will be seamless and I will be well-prepared to succeed in all aspects of student life at Auburn. Harbert College’s exceptional School of Accountancy will provide many opportunities to explore a variety of accounting specialties and because of the versatility of an accounting degree, I will have many career options beyond Auburn University.”