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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

It's Impossible to Save Birmingham-Southern; Students Must Escape This Sinking Ship While They Can

Updated: Nov 13

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on November 12, 2023

IMAGE: Birmingham-Southern College

An Editorial Opinion

The glory days of Birmingham-Southern College (BSC), an elite private school that was founded 1856, have come and gone. BSC is now a financially distressed and dying institution.

BSC’s credit rating is so low that any loan to the college would be rated as a "junk bond." Its student enrollment, which is predominantly white, has been shrinking for years. BSC's life expectancy is zero.

BSC is located in Birmingham, Alabama -- the most depressed city in state, as ranked by in 2022.

Birmingham is the second "most dangerous city in the United States," according to a study released in May 2023 by data site

Crime in the area surrounding BSC is bad and it is getting increasingly worse. Last Friday, there was a wild west-style shootout on I-59 near the Arkadelphia Road exit that leads to the college. The shootout injured four people and shut down the I-59 for hours.

A couple of months earlier, stunning TikTok videos went viral on the Internet when they showed scenes of a nearby Pilot Travel Center that had been abandoned by employees and looted. The videos showed empty shelves, broken merchandise, and a ransacked ATM inside the travel center, which is located less than a mile away at Finley Boulevard and Bankhead Highway.

Birmingham is located in a state that ranks at or near the bottom in many quality-of-life factors.

BSC’s alumni and big-money donors have pretty much given up on the college. Last month, the Alabama State Treasury refused to give the college a $30 million loan because of its distressed financial condition.

It’s impossible for BSC to beat these insurmountable odds. Anyone who continues to peddle the fantasy that BSC can be saved is perpetrating a fraud and rendering a great disservice to the remaining students who need to escape from this sinking ship while they can.

Birmingham city officials have promised to pump $5 million into BSC, which is expected to be delivered on or about November 21, 2023, as a Thanksgiving gift. This money will not save BSC, but it will definitely help the college's primary banker -- ServisFirst Bank -- reduce its financial losses on outstanding loans to the college before BSC tanks.

In turn, city officials and other supporting Birmingham-area elected officials can pick up some hefty campaign contributions from ServisFirst Bank when they run for re-election to their current positions or campaign for a higher office.

What city officials cannot provide to BSC is a public safety plan that protect its students when they are living, working, and traveling in Birmingham outside the safety of the walled-off and isolated college.

In fact, these officials do not have an effective public safety plan for any area of Birmingham. As a result, violent crime is out of control in the city. Shootings and crime-related deaths are a daily occurrence in Birmingham.

City officials do not have to worry about this skyrocketing violence because they are escorted by taxpayer-funded security details wherever they go. Even high-profile visitors to the city like the presidents of Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University feel the need to bring their own security details when they are in town. Their heavy security details were present everywhere these two presidents went in Birmingham during the Magic City Classic weekend.

BSC is on its deathbed. The responsible thing for BSC officials to do at this juncture is wind down the educational and business affairs of the college and assist the remaining students in transferring to other colleges.

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