My Journey from Philly to Birmingham, and Why It Can Help This State
It was a little after the evening news when Alabama first became a part of my life. Boredom and due diligence combined to alter my life’s path when I was a senior in high school living outside of Philadelphia. My SAT scores, my GPA, my extracurriculars — every thing I needed to go to college — was there, except the college.
The SAT website used to have this awful survey that would supposedly tell you which college you would be the best fit. It was essentially the only intelligent Buzzfeed quiz. So I took this 35-page quiz with questions ranging from the serious to the seemingly asinine, and out of every university/college/ponzi scheme, the only one that it recommended for me was the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide.
I had no real intention of moving to Alabama, which up to that point in my life I knew of solely from To Kill a Mockingbird and “Forest Gump.” Still, my father persuaded me to fly down for a campus tour during February, mostly for him to escape the frigid hell-like winters of the North. Almost immediately I fell in love with Alabama, and the Southern way of life for that matter. Within ten minutes of walking on the Quad I turned to my dad and told him where he could send his hard-earned money for the next four years. Roll Tide, Auburn sucks.
Why My Story Matters
None of you really care why I chose Alabama from a state with a far better state system of colleges and universities, but you should for a very simple reason: I stayed here. Ultimately that quiz I took would net the state of Alabama untold fortunes in tuition, and lead to a new resident who modestly contributes in state taxes.
Colleges in our state have the chance to persuade out-of-state students to settle down in Alabama. This is vital to growth because attracting college graduates to live and work here will only make this state better. As of 2009 just 22 percent of Alabama’s population had a Bachelor’s degree, not shockingly below the national average.
That undereducated population is unfortunately staying put where they came from. Over 70 percent of Alabama’s population was born in the state, above the national average of 58 percent. One of the easiest ways to better this state is to bring in well-educated outsiders and reverse the state’s brain drain.
Yet the legislature doesn’t seem to understand what an asset the colleges are to marketing the state. Over the last four years, they have slaughtered the higher education budget, and this year looks to be on track for another reduction. Between K-12, two-year colleges and four-year universities, only four-year universities are set to lose funding this year. Montgomery is taking away funding from the only one of those three educational systems that is helping Alabama’s national perception.
Ultimately the students of four-year universities will have to shoulder that loss of funding. As tuition prices for out-of-state students rises, the chances of attracting more of them go down.
Alabama needs to not only attract kids to go to college here, but attract the jobs to keep those kids here once they graduate. Only then can we drastically increase the educational attainment of the state, and establish a solid foundation for its success.