The University of Alabama is paid for by Alabamian tax dollars. It purports to educate Alabamians. But at this moment, it’s failing in that department.
More and more, the University is becoming a school for a wealthy elite. And more and more, the University is an institution that prioritizes expansion and profit over the needs of Alabama’s students.
If you want proof, look at the numbers.
Look at the 100 percent increase in tuition prices over the past 10 years. Look at the fact that at a state university, 55 percent of incoming freshmen are from out of state. Look at the Shelby fountain, which cost $1.8 million and has no purpose other than to attract new recruits.
Improving our university is good. But Alabama is a poor state, and the national economy is still flagging. We need affordable education more than we need new fountains or bigger dorms. If minor improvements to the University make it inaccessible to Alabama’s middle class, then it has failed as an institution.
With that in mind, why is the University becoming so expensive? Blame the Board of Trustees. They’re the ones who approved the Shelby fountain, forthcoming multi-million dollar renovations to the Quad, rising tuition prices and a host of other decisions. They’re also the ones who gave “retreating” UA executives $1.14 million in the 2012-13 school year and who pay the chancellor and the presidents of each UA campus six-figure bonuses each fall, according to public wage data.
Frankly, our administration doesn’t deserve performance bonuses. They’ve enabled crimes of violence and discrimination for decades.
But all of that aside, their worst offense is that they’re sabotaging a vital resource for Alabama. They’re taking our public university and turning it into a money-making venture. They’re becoming rich off performance bonuses, and they’re offering lucrative positions to their friends. They’re plundering an invaluable public institution by making it a corporate enterprise.
This state needs a good public university. In-state education for ordinary Alabamians doesn’t just benefit students, it injects skilled workers into our economy.
But the University’s administrators jeopardize that by driving costs up. They jeopardize it by shifting the cost onto a growing body of out-of-state students. They jeopardize it with inexcusable fiscal irresponsibility. And Alabama will suffer for it.
Nathan James is a junior majoring in public relations.