Birmingham-Southern College

Birmingham-Southern College Closing After 168 Years Educating Students

Birmingham-Southern College is closing its doors May 31 after a nearly 18-month fight to overcome its financial shortfalls.

The BSC board of trustees met Tuesday and decided to close the school after learning that a bill to lend the college $30 million from a state higher education loan fund was unlikely to pass the Legislature this year, according to a statement from the college.

“This is a tragic day for the college, our students, our employees and our alumni,” board chairman the Rev. Keith D. Thompson said in a statement from BSC. “But it is also a terrible day for Birmingham, for the neighborhoods who have surrounded our campus for more than 100 years, and for Alabama.

“Through this challenging year and a half, we have talked a lot about BSC’s more than $90 million annual economic impact on Alabama, with $68 million of that right here in our city,” Thompson said. “But beyond that loss — which is enormous — the loss of a nationally ranked liberal arts college that has contributed so much to this state and to the world — and still had so much to give — is incalculable.”

The action will leave current students looking for new colleges to attend and faculty and staff out of jobs.

The Legislature passed a law last year creating a revolving loan fund to help colleges and universities in distress. Although the law was passed as a way to bail out BSC, state Treasurer Young Boozer, who was named to manage the program, declined BSC’s application, saying the college did not have enough collateral to secure the loan, an assessment BSC vehemently contested.

A new bill was introduced in the Legislature this year that would have put the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in charge of the fund. The bill passed the Senate last month and was passed by a House of Representatives committee last week. “Even so, subsequent conversations with House leadership confirmed that the bill did not have enough support to move forward,” the college said in its statement.

Students, FacultyAffected

The college is on spring break this week. Information has been distributed to students and employees, and individual meetings will be scheduled when they return to campus next week, according to the statement.

Students First BSC is working to help students who have to transfer to other institutions. “Their BSC scholarships will not follow them, and with housing in short supply at many colleges and universities both in-state and outside Alabama, many will face logistical and financial challenges,” the statement reads.

“We are putting students first, and we will do everything we can to help them find the best place to continue their path to graduation,” said Provost Laura K. Stultz. “We are working with other institutions — including those in the Associated Colleges of the South as well as some in-state colleges and universities — on agreements that will help maximize the transfer of credits to keep them on track.”

A small group of seniors will be able to complete their BSC degrees this summer through online courses or agreements with other colleges. A few employees will work into the summer, but the lion’s share will be out of jobs by May 31, according to the statement.

City Officials Call Closing ‘Heartbreaking,’ ‘Devastating’

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in a statement called news of the closing “heartbreaking.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn said news of the closing was “devastating” on multiple levels.

“This is devastating for the students, faculty members, families and everyone affiliated with this historic institution of higher learning,” he said. “It’s also profoundly distressing for the surrounding community, who will now be living in close proximity to an empty college campus. As we’ve seen with other institutions that have shuttered their doors, we will be entering a difficult chapter following this unfortunate development … . We’re approaching this with resilience and a sense of hope that something positive can eventually come from this troubling chapter.”