A Predominantly White College Is Closing And These Alabama HBCUs Aim To Purchase It

In a historic turn of events, Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) faces closure on May 31, sparking a potential battle among Alabama Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for its acquisition. 

Alabama A&M University expresses interest in a solo purchase, while a consortium of other colleges, led by Miles College, explores a joint acquisition. The outcome of this struggle could mark a significant milestone in higher education, with an HBCU poised to acquire the campus of a predominantly white institution.

The initiative for collective purchase gains momentum as Miles College President Bobbie Knight spearheads discussions with fellow HBCU leaders. State Sen. Merika Coleman, who currently serves as a political science professor at the college, shed light on the plan during a legislative session on May 2.

“I actually met with President Knight of Miles College and her government affairs team. They have spoken with all the HBCU presidents, and that’s the two-year and the four-year. What I’m told is everybody wants to come together and use their collective resources to be able to purchase the college itself. Of course you’ve got to have money to sustain it,” Colman said. 

Despite Alabama A&M’s eagerness, lawmakers appear cautious about allocating funds, particularly as they finalize the state’s education budget. Republican lawmakers voiced concerns about the financial implications of such a purchase.

“I think there’s a prospect, yes,” expressed State Senator Arthur Orr. “And I would certainly advocate an institution like A&M to be able to purchase it. But the timing was not good.”

If either purchase materializes, it would represent a groundbreaking achievement for HBCUs. However, Senator Orr cautions that along with this milestone comes a substantial financial burden. BSC’s impending closure follows its unsuccessful bid for a $30 million state loan, further underscoring the financial challenges facing the institution.

“A&M is a state institution and has well over a 100-year track record. And I think it would certainly be beneficial to the city of Birmingham and the state for that campus to remain educational in focus, to be a real lighthouse for the community, imparting education to students near and far. And that would be a good thing,” Orr said.  “But once you own it, you have to maintain it and sustain it and fill it full of professors and the maintenance folks and people to keep the campus up, etc. The costs go up as well. So we just need that full plan.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding BSC’s future, its vice president of communications underscores that no definitive agreement with any buyer has been reached. 

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