If nothing else, this bill has kept the various education agencies and entities busy trying to figure out what the future holds for them.
Most recently, the administrators at Alabama colleges and universities have been trying to develop budgets without a clear understanding of the impact the act will have on their funding.
In case you had not heard — or did not have children in college and see tuition rise — Alabama ranks fourth nationally in cuts to higher education ($556 million since 2008), according to a study published by Illinois State University. This has come on top of budgets that, by most rational measures, were already under-funded.
One can argue, as critics of higher education have, that Alabama is one of the most “schooled” and least “educated” states in the union. We have community colleges and university branch campuses scattered about, often overlapping territory. But because each of these institutions has a local constituency that a legislator must satisfy, efforts to consolidate them have failed.
On the other hand, having so many institutions has offered affordable and accessible education in the past to a much broader public than would be available otherwise.
The Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) might change that.
If the AAA cuts money from the Education Trust Fund, that’s less available money that normally could go to the state’s colleges and universities. Those institutions then will either have to raise tuition and fees again or cut programs.
This would mean the two-year colleges might not be able to continue the workforce development and retention efforts that are closely tied to the state’s economic development plan. Why? Because they could no longer offer the courses and because many students could not afford to pay the cost, even if the courses were there.
The same could prove true for university programs that are rapidly becoming financially out of reach of promising but less affluent students.
In short, Alabama’s public colleges and universities will become less and less public.
This on top of the negative impact public schools will feel as a result of AAA.
In short, one of the unanticipated consequences of the Alabama Accountability Act will be less and less “public” in public education.
Or maybe that wasn’t unanticipated at all. Maybe those who passed this act agreed with William Henry Vanderbilt who, when asked about how his railroad empire was serving the public, replied, “the public be damned.”