A meeting is set for Monday morning for Alabama lawmakers to discuss the future of Birmingham-Southern College, according to a letter addressed to the Jefferson County Delegation.
According to the letter, the college has been operating in "financial distress" for over a decade and without support, it will have to cease operations after May 2023. If there is no commitment from the state, the letter states the college will need to notify high school seniors it will not be accepting applications for next school year by the middle of January.
In a partial statement, college leaders said:
BSC’s financial challenges began with a building program in the mid-2000s that drew heavily upon the endowment and caused the College to take on significant debt. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 and an error in the accounting of federal financial aid further depleted the College’s resources. Subsequent presidents did a remarkable job of funding the year-to-year operations of the College despite significant challenges. Without a healthy endowment, the economic model under which BSC operates is simply not sustainable for the long term.
Carolyn Moore attended Birmingham-Southern College in the 1970's. She is not in favor of her alma mater getting support from the State.
She said, "I loved it. It was a good school and I'm glad I went there, and I support the idea of private education."
"Once you're public, then the legislature is holding your strings" she said.
"Birmingham-Southern is a jewel in our community," State Senator J.T. Waggoner stated in the letter. "Over 5,000 of its 17,000 alumni live in Jefferson County. They make up 10% of the Birmingham Bar, hundreds of doctors, and numerous head of non-profit organizations. A pillar of our community on the west-side of Birmingham since 1898, BSC has an important role to play in our county's future."
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BSC President Daniel Coleman has met with many members of the delegation, according to the document, and he has put together a plan in hopes of stabilizing funds for the college to remain open long term. The plan includes a $30 million one-time infusion from the state which would include $12.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $17.5 million from the Education Trust Fund.
Malik Thomas supports the state helping out.
He said "I'm a taxpayer and I'd hate to see such a staple in our community go down. In my opinion, it's a great institution. It's been around for quite some time. I have brothers who have a chapter there, fraternally."
The letter claims that infusion plus smaller grants from the city of Birmingham and Jefferson County would cover the college's projected deficits through May 2026.
"Over the past 18 months, President Coleman has had approximately 400 pledges of private funds totaling over $45 million," the letter states. "The government infusion would enable the fundraising to continue for three more years so that BSC can replace its endowment and continue to operate as an independent college."
According to college leaders, the $45 million raised is part of a goal of raising $200 million by May 2026 to refresh its endowment fund.
We have reached out to President Coleman for additional information.
Waggoner signed the bottom of the document along with Rep. Jim Carns. You can read the full letter below.