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City Council Committee OKs Total of $5 Million in Loans to Help Struggling Birmingham Southern

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Birmingham Southern College President Daniel Coleman addresses Birmingham City Council on loans to help the financially struggling college. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson, The Birmingham Times)
By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
The Birmingham Times

The Birmingham City Council’s Committee of the Whole (COW) on Tuesday unanimously recommended two loans, each for $2.5 million, to help give financially struggling Birmingham Southern College some hope to stay open.

The City Council committee made the recommendation at the request of Mayor Randall Woodfin and the full council will vote next Tuesday whether to approve.

Birmingham Southern College (BSC) President Daniel Coleman told the nine-member COW that the school will remain open through June, 2024 but beyond that, the school’s future could be in question.

The loans help because one of is structured as a forgivable loan, which would be funds the school would keep if they hit certain metrics, Coleman said.

“They (two loans from City of Birmingham) would be used to be the college’s financing over the next three years while we raise an endowment,” he said. “Our endowment right now is $45 million pledged and we need to get it solidly over $100 (million) to stabilize.”

Next steps are to ask the Jefferson County Commission for financial support, he said.

The council had previously approved funding for BSC, but it was contingent upon the state funding BSC as well.

But the college received a blow, when, in mid-October, Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer denied the school’s application for a $30 million dollar loan that, according to Coleman, BSC needed to stay afloat. Later that month, BSC sued the state asking a judge to compel Boozer to approve the application, but a circuit court judge dismissed this lawsuit.

Coleman said he’s hopeful to continue talks with state lawmakers and the support from the city helps.

Mayor Randall Woodfin presented an overview of what could happen is BSC closed. “Birmingham Southern College has approximately 700 students and directly employees approximately 292 employees and about 1200 indirect,” he said. “It leads to a spending of about $45 million per year.”

Several councilors stressed the importance of keep the college open.

The loans “show that we greatly value this anchor institution in western Birmingham, and we can’t afford to lose this college and I hope it gives students and faculty hope that they will continue to have a place to learn and to work,” said Councilor Carol Clarke, who represents the district where the institution is located.

BSC is a private liberal arts college that sits on nearly 200 acres.

Coleman said school leaders remain encouraged during the funding ordeal because “this is a fight and to some extent that helps keep us motivated. Especially our students – they like a good fight. And our faculty and staff, they love this school,” he said.