The people's voice of reason

Birmingham Southern will close at the end of May

On Tuesday, Birmingham Southern College (BSC) announced that it will cease operations on May 31. The Board of Trustees made the decision after months of negotiations with the state of Alabama on a bailout proved fruitless.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) released a statement regarding the decision by the Birmingham-Southern College Board of Trustees to cease operations.

"This is a great loss not only for the Birmingham community but for the entire state of Alabama," Sewell said. "For years, Birmingham-Southern College has propelled our state forward by producing outstanding graduates, many of whom I have had the privilege of employing including my current Legislative Aide and Chief of Staff. BSC means so much to so many, and my thoughts are with the students, faculty, staff, and alumni as they process this difficult news and begin to plan their next steps."

"While no one had hoped for this outcome, the failure of state leaders to do their part and provide assistance to BSC is particularly disappointing," Sewell continued. "It remains my belief that the cost of such an investment would be small relative to the tremendous benefits of keeping the college open. Nevertheless, I stand ready to assist in any way that I can as we work to mitigate the loss of this cherished institution for the student body, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities."

The loss of the small liberal arts college will be an economic blow to the city of Birmingham.

"Word of the decision to close Birmingham-Southern College is disappointing and heartbreaking to all of us who recognize it as a stalwart of our community," said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. "I've stood alongside members of our City Council to protect this institution and its proud legacy of shaping leaders. It's frustrating that those values were not shared by lawmakers in Montgomery."

"To President Coleman, you have our undying gratitude for your relentless pursuit of solutions during this difficult time," Woodfin continued. "Your dedication to BSC will not be overlooked. And to the many students past and present who call BSC home, know that you are part of the fabric of this city."

In 2023 the Alabama Legislature passed a controversial piece of legislation to authorize the State Treasurer to loan the financially troubled college $30 million. After a review of the private college's finances, State Treasurer Young Boozer (R) reluctantly refused to loan them the money. Boozer came to the same conclusion that the banks did and that if they loaned BSC the money they likely would not get it back.

BSC alum and Senate Rules Committee Chair, Sen James "Jabo" Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), who sponsored the bailout loan legislation, angrily denounced Boozer's actions and said that it was the "legislative intent" that BSC get the loan. Boozer was unfazed by the criticism.

During the 2024 session, Waggoner sponsored a new bill, Senate Bill 31, authorizing the Commissioner on Higher Education to make the loan. That controversial legislation passed the State Senate; but faced mounting opposition in the Alabama House of Representatives where it was carried by Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham).

The Board of Trustees, realizing that help from the state was highly unlikely and likely too little to make any difference, admitted defeat on Tuesday.

The college's enrollment has dwindled to a little over 500 students. The graduating class of 2024 will be BSC's last. The administration has promised to provide assistance for BSC students as they seek to transfer to other schools.

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