Samford University The BelltowerFebruary 2004

Student Grants Threatened By State Fiscal Crisis

"As the Alabama Legislature convenes to wrestle with massive state budget shortfalls, the stakes are high for students at Alabama's independent colleges"

As the Alabama Legislature convenes to wrestle with massive state budget shortfalls, the stakes are high for students at Alabama's independent colleges. The longstanding Alabama Student Grant Program [ASGP], which has already been cut from $5.3 million in 2002-03 to $1.77 million in 2003-04, may be eliminated altogether during the legislative session that opened on February 3.

The program provides small grants (a maximum of $227 per student in 2002-04) to Alabama residents who choose to attend one of the state's many independent colleges. "That is significant money that each student and family would have to provide from their own resources," said Samford University President Thomas E. Corts. On the other hand, said Corts, the grants are small compared to state subsidies for public college students. "If all the Alabama students attending private colleges suddenly presented themselves at state universities, the cost would be in the tens of millions."

According to Virginia F. Bugg, director of Alabama Independent Colleges, the Alabama Student Grant Program can best be defended by independent college students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni directly contacting their legislators. Toward that end, Bugg said, each of the 11 independent colleges whose students receive the grants are hosting letter-writing tables on their campuses and encouraging alumni and other friends to write in support of the grants. The schools are over halfway toward a goal of at least 1,000 letters of support statewide.  Samford hosted letter-writing days on February 3 and 5, but the University hopes all its supporters will contact their legislators on their own. "If it does not seem to matter to the people who vote in their districts," Corts said of state legislators, "they may find it easy to zero out the Alabama Student Grant Program."

Bugg said grant supporters can look up their legislators online at www.legislature.state.al.us (the mailing address for all legislators is Alabama State House, 11 S. Union St., Montgomery, AL 36103). Bugg said the letters should:

  • be mailed as soon as possible after the opening of current legislative session.
  • give your home address, so the legislator will recognize that you are from his/her district.
  • name the college you attend/represent.
  • say thanks for the Alabama Student Grant.
  • say the grant is an important part of the financial aid package that keeps many students in college.
  • remind lawmakers that parents of students at independent colleges are taxpayers.
  • remind lawmakers that the grant is small compared to the $8,500/student/year subsidy that keeps tuition low at state four-year universities.
  • directly request legislators NOT to eliminate the grant program, and to increase it if possible.
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