Birmingham-Southern College president speaking up following decision to close the historic 168-year-old college

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Just a day after Birmingham-Southern leaders announced the 168-year-old institution will close its doors, BSC President Daniel Coleman sat down with WBRC.

Coleman says this last week has been a difficult one for the Birmingham-Southern family. He says as recently as last Thursday, he thought a bill to help the college secure $30 million in funding would be approved.

However, Coleman’s dream to keep the doors open for future Panthers was dashed last week. He says the Republican Caucus in the House held a secret ballot straw vote last week and Republican leaders were overwhelmingly against the bill, meaning the bill was dead.

“It is hard to describe how I felt. It was almost like a death. Hearing about a death. The death of someone that was sick but you thought could get better.”

Coleman says after learning the bill didn’t have the necessary support, school leaders scheduled a board meeting to discuss closing the beloved institution. The meeting came after a very public year and a half fight to secure funding aid and several events that made the BSC believers maintain hope.

Legislation was passed last session in an effort to get the school the funding they needed. However, the school’s loan request denied by Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer, and efforts to change the decision in court proved unsuccessful.

Coleman stressed that its been an incredibly challenging few days, but the university will do what they can to take care of their students.

“I have talked to the chancellor of the UA system who is going to do everything possible to help. I have probably exchanged emails with ten colleges today, but we have a team working on this and we will have a transfer fair a week from Friday. I expect two dozen, maybe three dozen colleges coming to visit.”

Coleman says right now, there are three priorities:

  1. He says first and foremost are the Panther students. Ensuring their students find a new place to finish out their studies in the years ahead.
  2. Secondly, he says they will help faculty and staff in their search for new jobs in education.
  3. Their final priority is selling the campus and paying off creditors. One of which was the city of Birmingham. City leaders agreed to give the college two different loans at $2.5 million a piece in November 2023.

“They will stand behind service first but service first has about $16.1 million. The campus appraises at $55 million and that doesn’t even include apartments. The entire campus package is probably about $75 million of value. I feel pretty confident that the city, north Alabama conference, and that group of donors will all get paid back.”

As far as who will take over the property, Coleman says they will talk to other colleges to gauge their interest in the property, but BSC leaders do have options. This includes carving the property up and selling it in pieces. Coleman said his preference is to sell it as one piece.

“I think there will be a lot of buyers. I can think of four right now that could be interested but we will probably hire a national broker as well because this is a unique property and we want to make sure the whole country has the opportunity to see it. We will keep the neighborhood up as we go through this process. I don’t think this process will really get going for two to three weeks because of the other things we are working on but we want it to happen quickly,” said Coleman.

Coleman stressed the sale would be a balancing act of sorts, but says school leaders are prioritizing the health of the neighborhood.

“We do need a good price because we want to make sure our creditors get paid back in full and I think they will. So we have to balance things there but I can appreciate the fact that this neighborhood doesn’t want another Carraway Hospital. We have four or five times the property of Carraway and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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