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Birmingham-Southern College to officially close

After a prolonged struggle to secure financial support, Birmingham-Southern College will officially close on May 31, 2024 after a vote from the 168-year-old university’s board of trustees.

“The Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to close the College after a 2024 bill designed to amend the 2023 legislation that established the loan program on which our future depended failed to win sufficient support in the Alabama House of Representatives. Without that funding, the College does not have the resources to continue,” BSC Board of Trustees Chairman Rev. Keith D. Thompson wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

BSC’s campus, located on the west side of Birmingham, opened its doors to students for its final semester this spring, following the latest attempt by some members of the Alabama Legislature to offer financial relief to the school in the amount of $30 million to be paid back to the state over time. BSC’s most powerful advocate, State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) argued recently that such a loan program would generate a $2 billion return within 20 years.

In 2023, state lawmakers approved a higher education revolving loan program to effectively bailout the private university, which was founded in 1856 and remained a distinctly-Alabama institution throughout its history. That loan program was to be overseen and delivered by the Alabama State Treasurer, given that a financially-distressed university meets certain criteria, such as having assets to pledge as collateral and offering a substantial impact on its local community.

RELATED: Alabama lawmakers advance effort to financially support BSC by sidelining state treasurer

Young Boozer, the current State Treasurer, rejected Birmingham-Southern’s loan application under that program – later publicly citing a “dismal financial track record” that included management instability, miscalculation of federal funds, declining enrollment and the depletion of an endowment fund that stood at $130 million two decades prior.

In 2024, lawmakers returned to Montgomery awaited by a proposal from State Sen. Waggoner to remove Boozer, from the process of administering the loan – instead placing the control with Dr. Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

“As all of you remember last year, we passed the bill and designated the State Treasurer as the one to administer the $30 million loan program for Birmingham-Southern,” Waggoner told the Legislature last month.

“But, he (Boozer) refused and now we’ve had another bill to designate the administrator of the Commission on Higher Education as the one to administer this loan program. Basically the bill is the same except who’s going to administer the program.”

As Waggoner’s bill advanced through the process, which awaited a vote from the Alabama House after passing the Senate, the school’s officials learned the legislation did not have the support required to get across the finish line. On Tuesday, the university’s Board of Trustees met to formalize an announcement that has remained on the verge of reality for several years now: BSC will close for good.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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