Giving Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) millions in taxpayer dollars would be a "very slippery slope that we would have difficulty retreating from," according to Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens.
BSC officials announced in a press release Saturday that the private college would be seeking a combination of federal funding the state oversees with state, city, and county funding amounting to $37.5 million.
Under BSC's request, $12.5 million would come from ARPA funds, $17.5 from the state of Alabama, $5 million from the city of Birmingham, and $2.5 million from Jefferson County.
The government bailout is necessary "in order to allow sufficient time for this fundraising effort to succeed and to give BSC breathing room to operate, we are seeking a one-time contribution," according to BSC's press release.
BSC stated they had raised $45 million from private donors towards their fundraising goal of $200 million by May 2026.
Stephens said in a phone interview with 1819 News Monday that he'd heard from constituents on the matter, and he personally wasn't sure giving county funds to BSC would be a valid use of taxpayer dollars.
"I have had feedback from many of my constituents since that article first broke, and I've only had one constituent – he was a Birmingham-Southern graduate, that was in favor of helping them or bailing them out as the way it was described to me," Stephens said. "I think if we begin that process with private institutions that it would be a very slippery slope that we would have difficulty retreating from. I'm not sure that that is a valid expenditure of taxpayer dollars."
He added that "we have many fine private institutions in our area, including Samford University and Miles College, and I don't know that it would be appropriate to give one funds and not the others."
"I can only speak for myself, but I'm understanding of the predicament they're in and certainly wishing the best for them," Stephens said. "I just don't know that I'm in a position as a representative of citizens of Jefferson County to expend taxpayer dollars for that particular purpose."
BSC President Daniel Coleman met with state lawmakers from Jefferson County on Monday morning to discuss the bailout.
A spokesperson for the city of Birmingham didn't return a request for comment Monday.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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