A good friend of mine was lamenting that his daughter was getting ready to graduate from the University of Alabama, but was moving to Dallas to begin her career and would probably never come home.
He complained his daughter couldn’t find a good job opportunity in Birmingham and had to move out of state.
He noted that UA has thousands of out of state students—but we don’t retain them. “Heck, we can’t even hold onto in state students like my daughter.”
The primary reason I began publishing ComebackTown in 2012 was I attended a civic club luncheon and listened to every person at my table complain that their children and grandchildren had moved away.
As a University of Alabama graduate, my friend’s comments about UA and Birmingham’s losing our children hit me in the gut.
The total enrollment at Alabama when I attended in 1961 was 9,009.
It’s currently 38,563.
Alabama’s student population has grown steadily since 1961, but exploded when Coach Saban became the head football coach. Coach Saban came to Tuscaloosa in 2007. In 2006 UA had 23,878 students—since then the number of students has grown by 62%.
And it’s truly remarkable that the number of out of state students now represent 65% of the total enrollment.
As the New York Times wrote in a piece titled, How the University of Alabama Became a National Player, “It’s only fitting that the admissions tour for the University of Alabama starts in Bryant-Denny Stadium.”
“The University of Alabama is the fastest-growing flagship in the country… As critical as the student body jump: the kind of student the university is attracting. The average G.P.A. of entering freshmen is 3.66, up from 3.4 a decade ago, and the top quarter scored at least a 31 on the ACT, up from 27.”
Samford University in Birmingham is also often overlooked as a resource for out of state students. It might surprise you that 66% of Samford’s student body comes from out of state.
The year before I attended UA, Denny Stadium had a seating capacity of 31,000. UA now has 7,000 more students than Denny Stadium had seating capacity in 1960.
Tuscaloosa is only 50 miles from Birmingham.
What a glorious asset we have in all those young ambitious minds.
We need take that magic pixie dust sprinkled by Nick Saban on UA and spread some of it on Birmingham by recruiting those students here any way we can.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org