Birmingham City Schools

Woodfin Discusses Plan for Free College Tuition to City Graduates

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. (Source: Sam McPherson)

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Wednesday discussed his plan to offer Birmingham City Schools graduates the chance to go to a public two-year or four-year school in Alabama tuition-free.

He tweeted a reminder Tuesday of the program announced in May.

Even Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders took notice.

“Every kid in this country should be able to get a higher education if they desire one,” Sanders tweeted. “We must follow the lead of cities like Birmingham and make higher education accessible to all by making public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free.

The program is part of the mayor’s Birmingham Promise initiative, a public-private partnership that began with an apprenticeship program for BCS students. Woodfin says the college tuition component is the second phase and will be offered to students graduating in the class of 2020 and beyond.

Financial awards will be “last dollar,” meaning they will make up the gap left after other financial aid has been exhausted. Students also must live in the city of Birmingham and have attended city schools for 12 years to receive the full amount. Those attending fewer years will have awards prorated.

In a Facebook Live video, Woodfin says he hears from parents who are worried about paying for their children’s college education.

“I want to make sure they have the opportunity to go and they can afford to stay. This is our way of making sure our children have an opportunity,” Woodfin says.

Woodfin says the city will put up at least $10 million over five years to support the program, with additional money coming through private fundraising. Long-term plans call for creating an endowment.

According to data from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, 32% of BCS graduates in 2017 went to a four-year school and 22% enrolled in a two-year college. That study did not break down attendance by public or private institution.