“Roll Tide!” was the mantra today at Murphy High School when the Mobile County Public School System in conjunction with the University of Alabama announced Mobile area high school students would soon be eligible to earn up to 26 college credits at a new university center designed for college academics.

As a “first-ever” educational opportunity in Alabama, students will be able to apply for admission to the Murphy University Center — a new wing at Murphy High School — to prepare for collegiate life like never before.

“This is the first of its kind in the state,” MCPSS Superintendent Martha Peek said. Additionally, Peek said the new university might also be one of the few programs in the entire U.S. that offer students college courses and credit in a similar fashion.

According to Peek, the Murphy University Center will ease the transition from high school to college, help students become easily acclimated to more rigorous college courses and focus on being well prepared for the next step in life.

“What a great start in moving forward,” she said.

Fifty tenth-grade students at Murphy High School will be selected for admission into the Murphy University Center’s pilot class. These students must apply for admission by March 25 and subsequently pass a gateway class as a prerequisite freshman study skills course, which will begin April 13.

Present at the announcement were three hopeful Murphy High School sophomores, Bentley Odom, Emma Bearden and Cameron Robinson, who are all aiming to be a part of the Murphy University Center’s pilot class.

“I think we’ve tapped into some untapped potential,” Odom said, adding that she feels the center will provide a great pathway to adjust from high school to college.

Bearden said she is very excited for the new experience and the opportunity to gain college credit in ways that haven’t been offered before.

“I’m ecstatic,” Robinson said. “I’m really at a loss for words.”

Being a football player at Murphy High School, Robinson said the University of Alabama was already one of his college interests and he hopes to play football for the university one day.

“This just puts the icing on the cake,” he said.

Beginning in fall 2015, high school students throughout Mobile County will be eligible to apply for the program. Prospective students must be a current high school sophomore or junior with a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and a benchmark score on the ACT Aspire assessment.

“This is one-of-a-kind for our state and for our education,” UA Early College Director Dr. Cheree Causey said.

According to Rena Philips, MCPSS supervisor of marketing and partnerships, other universities were considered but the credits offered by UA Early College will transfer broadly to not only UA but other colleges and universities as well.

Gene Montgomery, dean of students at the Murphy University Center, said fully establishing the collaborative program at Murphy High School only took about three months.

“It was fast,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything line up like this.”

While students will be required to pay tuition for the classes, Montgomery said giving them the opportunity to earn so many college credits while still in high school and living at home with parents will alleviate future costs of room and board that students might otherwise face. Though those accepted into the program will receive a UA Early College scholarship from UA upon enrolling in courses, officials are hopeful that the local community will further financially assist the students of the Murphy University Center.

Montgomery said the new program is “groundbreaking,” considering recent statistics show only 36 percent of college students graduate within a six-year timeframe.

“We’ve got to do better than that,” he said.