The University of Alabama is failing this state

Ryan Anderson

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I am proud to be an Alabamian. I was born here, grew up here, and I am continuing my education here. I love the food, the people, and especially the spirit of this state. But it is failing. As the sixth poorest state in the United States, we are failing. With 300,000 children who fall below the poverty line, we are failing. Our broken, underfunded and corrupt education system only exacerbates the issues facing Alabamians, leaving many in a critical state of cyclical poverty.

These facts are easy to ignore our beautiful little bubble of Tuscaloosa. From the multimillion dollar stadium to the perfectly manicured quad, this campus is the epitome of wealth and beauty. We have full access to state of the art technology, spotless facilities, and most importantly a fantastic education. We are surrounded by people just like us. Many of us are upper middle class with college educated parents and a stable financial background. We will earn one or two college degrees, get a job with a decent paying salary, and have access to healthcare. One day we will have the resources to send our own children to college, where they will do the same. Outside of our bubble the situation is very different.

Outside of our bubble there are people who are essentially living in the third world. Fifteen percent of Alabamians are functionally illiterate. How is someone supposed to hold a job, much less one with a decent salary and healthcare benefits, without even being able to read and write? With the third worst education system in the nation this should not be surprising. We spend less per student than nearly every other state, while nearly 60 percent of those students qualify for a free or reduced meal. These children, as the future of Alabama, are the most important asset that this state has and they are being left in the dark. Not just by lawmakers, but by our own university.

The University of Alabama has long ignored its duty to the people of Alabama. As a premier research institution with an abundance of resources, the University has the potential to make serious impacts to breaking the cycle of poverty. Instead, many leaders of this University have utilized these resources to further their own profit. This University expends a generous amount on recruiting out of state students, which pays off considering the expense of out of state tuition. This leads to a brain drain in Alabama, as equally qualified and intelligent in state students are deprived of a college education because they are not considered profitable. Any profit that a public university makes should be benefitting the state and its people, not lining the pockets of special interests.

The University of Alabama has both the responsibility and the resources to provide assistance to the people of this state. To ignore this responsibility would be to ignore the very state which the University was founded to serve. The consequences of this ignorance are and will remain severe, as the gap between the educated and uneducated will continue to grow and throw this state into even more turmoil. The state which serves as a home for not just this university, but for each of us, deserves better than this. 

Ryan Anderson is a sophomore majoring in public health. His column runs biweekly.